Respect The Game And It Will Pay You Back
Every ballplayer hears the same thing from coaches throughout the beginning of the player’s career.
A small fraction of players make the major leagues straight out of the draft.
Most make The Show after refining their skills for a few seasons in the minor leagues. A few bounce back and forth between the majors and minors before eventually sticking and finding their place.
Then there are the players that have enough talent to keep around, but not quite enough to make the jump to the majors. They’re the depth guys. They are uniquely talented in rare skills, but lacking in areas that would permit them to move forward.
They’re like singers that have the chops but sound like someone famous. Like, a talented painter whose works have the same attributes as a master but not the full complement.
They possess an uncommon skill but are common as a player
The player can hit, but can’t field or run. He can field like a vacuum cleaner, but can’t hit a lick. They can run like the wind but couldn’t hit the ball if you put it on a tee. There’s one aspect that they lack besides luck. A player that is valuable, invaluable, and without value at the same time.
Take, for example, Henry Ramos of the Arizona Diamondbacks. On September 6, Ramos got his first base hit, a single, in his first major league at-bat after 11 years in the minor leagues.
All his hopes, dreams, persistence, and hard work finally pay off in an instant. Nothing else mattered to him in that instant. It finally paid off. The one rush of elation and relief was worth it all.
There are many stories like Henry Ramos in sports, but baseball stories are unique. Baseball is the only sport where players can dedicate their lives to it. There’s no time limit. If a player is lucky and has character, he can work until the team takes the uniform off for him.
It’s like one day you go to the office and your key doesn’t work anymore. Ballplayers will give it everything they have until they are involuntarily retired, like a thoroughbred racehorse.
A football career doesn’t last long. The player’s body tells him it’s over. There is no minor league to fall back on. The same with basketball. When a player washes out of the NBA he goes overseas.
Hockey is the only sport that’s close to baseball for longevity, but the player still has to be uniquely talented to get clubs to call. If you respect the game.
But, in baseball, a player can hang around for years.
John Lindsey was the granddaddy of them all. Lindsey was a talented athlete from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he was a football and baseball star in high school. The Colorado Rockies drafted him as a first baseman in 1995. He could hit and hit with power, but that was it. He couldn’t field well and was slow on the bases.
Lindsey’s problem was he played during the steroid era in baseball when players cheated using performance-enhancing drugs. The drugs weren’t illegal, but the results were apparent. A 165-pound second baseman was hitting the ball as far as a 225-pound hitter. The players’ statistics are skewed.
A player like Lindsey that didn’t take steroids was lost in the shuffle. He didn’t play a skill position at first base. Everybody in the big leagues was hitting home runs at an astronomical pace. John Lindsey was a very good hitter, just not as good as the cheaters.
John Lindsey spent 16 years in the minor leagues before the Los Angeles Dodgers called him up for a cup of coffee in 2006. He was getting ready to retire from baseball and was on his way home when he got the call.
He got his first hit on September 12th of that year and then got his hand broken by a pitch while hitting a few days later.
Gritty catchers persist.
Catcher J.C. Boscan played 14 years in the minors before being called up by the Atlanta Braves. He almost hit a home run in his first at-bat before an umpire review called it foul. He got a base hit to drive in two runs on the next pitch he saw.
What made these players special was a combination of attitude, dedication, perseverance, and, above all else, hard work. The players got along with other players and were appreciated by their management.
They were an outstanding example of American work ethic. Quitting wasn’t an option when the goal is to realize the dream and contribute positively and reward your organization for the chance they took.
These players made the most of the opportunities given to them. They weren’t the most talented. They weren’t the best. But they had a laser-like focus and dogged determination to pursue their goal.
If you respect the game, the game will pay you back.