Is anyone who can hit a baseball 500 feet, or throw it 100 MPH, or make a breath taking catch, a hero no matter what else?
I am so damn depressed thinking about what I should do if a 300 hundred pound plus slugger, Miguel Sano, who tried to shove a vulnerable aspiring young lady photographer literally about 1/3 his size into a bathroom and sexually assault her, is let off with a slap on the wrist. Why is Kirby Puckett still remembered with reverence round here even though it is publicly known that he repeatedly abused and terrified his wife and daughter, while also assaulting other vulnerable victims of choice. Why could I, at least until recently, conjure up a tear in my eye when I remember his breath taking, game saving, series saving, catch in game six of the 91 World Series? Is fandom not just a very human irrational self indulgence but a self indulgent perversity?
So how do you denounce the worst and still remain a fan? You celebrate the best.
Who is your favorite player on your team – not as an athlete but as a human being? Whose story will help you overlook that baseball is a multi billion dollar entertainment industry, peopled by all types of people, good, bad and in between, when you settle in on a splendid summer evening to root root for the home team.
Here is mine. Surprise surprise.
2004 – 2006, when Joe Mauer was breaking through as a major leaguer, I opened and managed a group home caring for young adults and teenagers with mental retardation and the most “challenging behaviors” in Anoka County, Minnesota. “Challenging behaviors” is a euphemism if there ever was one. The chemical brain in-balances which are responsible for mental retardation are often accompanied by schizophrenia, bi polar disorder, autism, you name it. In extreme cases, several times a week, these normally beautiful wonderful human beings are overcome by the terror of their disorder(s) and attempt to hit, bite, pull the hair of, and spit on their caretakers. Their caretakers are trained in all cases to protect them by all means possible but never in anger, which is a firing offense. If in the final frustrations of the episode, while you have them protectively pinned to the floor, they bang their head against the floor, it is hoped that you will attempt to place your hopefully somewhat fleshy and soft forearm between their head and the floor to cushion the blows. Cold hands warm hearts.
It is difficult to find people who will walk that path, but I was lucky. Many of my staff were recent graduates of Cretin Durham High, Joe’s high school. They graduated but a few years after Joe and remembered, with envy, and admiration, a teenager who was arguably the greatest athlete in the history of a school whose alumnus include Paul Molitor, several NFL players and other MLB players (and BTW Bugs Moran). He was one of the top 5 amateur baseball prospects in the country and received a full scholarship offer to play quarter back from perennial national championship contender Florida State. He could easily have laid claim to emperor of the kool kids club. Instead when he heard about a mentally retarded girl attending his school who was being constantly picked on and teased he made a point of eating lunch with her every day because nobody would dare mess with someone sitting with Joe Mauer, and at the same time send the message that if anybody decided to mess with her at some time other than lunch, they best hope that Joe Mauer doesn’t hear about it. A cold bat sometimes? That’s okay, always a warm heart.
I like to think that some of the gold I was able to mine from the hearts of my staff was at least indirectly put there by Joe Mauer.
Come on everybody. I know that there are many fine human beings and therefore many fine writers that frequent this site. Spring training has not yet commenced, it’s frigging cold outside and Yu Darvish is still playing Hamlet. Cold hands warm keyboards.
7 thoughts on “Who’s Your Favorite Player”
Beautiful first post, Happy. 🙂
I’m pretty sure everyone knows about my admiration for one Anthony Rizzo, a man whose passion for baseball is overshadowed by his love of children. He routinely makes trips to pediatric cancer wards and children’s hospitals to meet with, play with, and bring a smile to the faces of kids who might not ever leave the hospital. He comes to them, with friends and Clark the Cub, by himself, with members of the media, without. There are times that an employee at the hospital will post a little thing on Twitter or Instagram saying thanks to Rizz for spending several hours playing, talking, and visiting with the children at a hospital, and he always modestly says that it’s his pleasure.
Rizz also has been holding a kids only “press conference” at Cubs Fest for years, too. He makes a big deal out of it, inviting kids and treating them seriously.
I know a lot of people make it a point to treat children specially, but Anthony Rizzo does it all the time, with love in his heart. And more often than not someone else is calling attention to his deeds, not him trying to make himself look awesome.
And for that fact alone, he IS awesome.
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This was a good exercise for me. Maybe I have just a little more hope for the human race. Not a lot, but a little.
George Springer gives time, money and personal presentations for kids who stutter.
Jose Altuve works closely with the Sunshine Kids (kids with cancer). He is frequently on the local news visiting hospitalized kids.
Carlos Beltran runs a baseball academy in Puerto Rico. He is also heavily into relief efforts on the island, donating his time and money.
Lance McCullers works with Altuve on various charitable efforts for kids. He also funds pet adoption and animal shelter efforts.
Josh Reddick operates a foundation which runs youth programs and donates for recreational parks in his home county in Georgia.
Carlos Correa has established a charitable foundation that seems to be into several behind the scenes efforts for local children. He is also working with Beltran in Puerto Rico.
Sheriff McCann also works on projects for kids with cancer.
Verlander is into charitable events and a foundation for war veterans.
I probably am missing a couple of guys, too. Nothing earth shattering here. But good to see that so many here see the need to give back in some way.
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I know about Sunshine Kids because of Craig Biggio! He used to wear a pin on his hat during BP to give them free publicity.
I also know about Lance McCullers’ animal foundation. He’s hands-on, too, when not every foundation is a passionate endeavor.
I forgot to highlight the efforts of Jonathan Lucroy, who has for years now sponsored and hosted Honor Flights for vets. I had the privilege of being at the Milwaukee airport when a lot of these guys were coming back from DC after one of the Lucroy flights. It was touching, and humbling.
I am too cynical to admire any of them for their charity. NO HEROES!
Yeah. Heroes is too strong a word. But I am glad to see anyone giving back anything these days.
It’s true that some, maybe many of the players only engage in charitable activities to fulfill their contractual obligation to the team (who regard these activities as indirectly lucrative PR actions} and privately resent doing so. I’ve read that Kirby Puckett was among them. And often they hire their family members into very well paid positions to run their “foundation”.
But I think we have to assume some, hopefully many, of them do so sincerely. Trouble is it is difficult for us to tell which is which peering through our television screens.
Life is complicated and so is fandom.
Cynicism, while fully understandable in “these times,” probably won’t get you any closer to being able to cross the River Styx at the appropriate time. For my favorite players, I tend to choose those who I fancy on the field and who don’t have any obvious behavioral baggage…..and then cross my fingers that sort of baggage won’t be exposed later on. Alas, almost everyone has it, or some species of skeleton in their closet. It is the state of humanity it seems. So, conflicted, I stand in admiration of the Good in people and try to have compassion for seemingly reprehensible Badness.
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