It’s how it always starts. A father picks a dusty old glove up out of a closet and hands it to his son, the legends of a thousand men sitting in the young boy’s hands. The leather is worn, but there is still a familiar feeling when the boy slips his hand into the glove, as if he has played the game his whole life. He has come upon the same thing many boys do, the game of baseball in which is instilled in the form of their father. Though many do not know what they have stumbled upon when they first throw the ball, they find themselves participating in something as American as apple pie and Uncle Sam, a game so rich in history, a game full of a mysterious charisma.
The legends all claim it began with their fathers; a simple game of catch in the backyard, a swing of the bat, a story told about the glory days when he was the star pitcher, once striking out 16 people in one game. The young boys hallow their father as a legend, one for the ages, wondering what they themselves are capable of. They put up posters of their favorite ballplayers; Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey, Jr; Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron. They aspire to be the legends on the posters. They work hard in Little League, then they work through high school, trying to get the big name colleges to take a look at them; to give them a chance.
When they get to the big leagues, when they get drafted and signed, their joy and their happiness is reflected in the father’s eyes, he knew that this moment would compare to nothing else in the now man’s life. Except for maybe that moment when he pulled out the dusty old glove and put on the boy’s hand, the moment the ball was released and the boy caught the ball for the first time. Nothing compares to the small pleasures in life, the moments where you feel like nothing can get to you, no trouble can ever get you in this moment.
I guess there’s just a natural bond between a father and a son, but I truly feel that moments like these justify that. When a boy and his father begin to toss a baseball, there is nothing in the world that can stop them from doing anything. A dream truly blossoms from the moment the glove is taken out of the shadows to the day a man signs a multi million dollar contract. No matter who you are and where you’re from, this ritual is performed simply because it is an act of nature, baseball was designed to bring people together, whether it be a father and a son, or a father and his daughter.
For some playing catch may be just be another afternoon ritual, but to others it is a sacred act performed just because it has to. No matter why you do it, it is just as important to people’s lives as anything else.
We all remember Nomar Garciaparra. In 1997 he won the Rookie of the Year Award in the American League when he hit .306 and competed in the Home Run Derby, finishing 8th in MVP voting at the end of the year. He most certainly won the hearts of Red Sox fans alike, often referred to as No-mah! Though he hit over .300 for all but one season as a Sox, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs as new management swept through the team and changed their approach, emphasizing on on-base percentage on offense and strong defense, where Garciaparra was soon decline from his previous numbers. He was in the final year of a contract he signed in 1997 when he was traded.
Though Nomar never again lived up to the numbers he posted in Boston, he had a mediocre season with the Cubs, the Dodgers, and the Athletics. Over 12 seasons he had a .313 average with 936 RBI’s. 229 homers, and 1,747 hits. On Wednesday, Nomar signed a one-day minor league contract, then to abrubtly retire, ending his career in Boston. He then took a job with ESPN to become a baseball analyst.
Nomar was a great player in Boston. He won the ROY in 1997 and finished in the top 10 for MVP voting multiple times. Though he was traded before he had the chance to win a World Series in 2004 for the Sox, he had a successful career, making the playoffs in 1998, 1999, and 2003 for the Sox, he also made the playoffs with the Dodgers in 2006 and 2008.
I think Nomar had a great career, nothing to be ashamed of. Is it Hall of Fame worthy? Maybe. He was a great shortstop and not many have come close to his elite play since he started playing. It would be nice to see another player from Boston be enshrined in the Hall. He probably won’t make it on the first ballot but I think the honor should be his. He was a great player.
At least Nomar will forever be associated with the Sox, as he began and ended his career wearing the Faithful Red!
1. The prices are affordable: The average ticket to a major league game is $26.64. The average ticket to a minor league game is between $7 and $8. Yes I understand why people want to see teams like the Red Sox and Dodgers play. Everyone should experience the big league experience at least once in their life. And I’m not saying that the minor leagues are better than the major leagues, there is really no comparison. They have two different feels when you go to the park. But if you want to sit behind home plate at least once in your life (unless you’re the president), you might as well do it at a minor league game where it costs $12 rather than a couple thousand dollars. Heck, I’m going to a minor league game in April and I’m sitting right behind the dugout for $12. Nothing beats being that close to the action.
2. Giveaways: There are a few small market teams in the major leagues who participate in giveaways, but it is rare. Most minor league teams have giveaways a couple times a week, and most of the time they’re not half bad. Last summer, my dad and I drove 2 hours to go see the Portland Sea Dogs simply because the first 2,000 fans got a Jed Lowrie bobblehead. It was completely worth it. Minor league teams wish to attract fans and giveaways certainly do. The things they give out are often worthwhile like bobbleheads and t-shirts. Most major league teams do not participate in the act of ‘freebies’ and its a shame. But it is something unique to the minor leagues and thats good and in a sense, should be kept like that.
3. Unique Stadium Names: Citi Field. AT&T Park. Safeco Field. Progressive Field. Blah Blah Blah. Thank god the Red Sox have not succombed to the long list of teams who have decided to accept million-dollar checks to change their stadium’s name into a billboard. Though some minor league teams have accepted checks to change their names, most stadiums have kept their names, often named after a significant person in the team’s history. I have no problem with that. I myself would love to have a stadium named after me. But soon, I fear, the minor league teams will find themselves mimicking their bigger counterparts and accepting the checks. I hope they don’t and keep their small town charisma.