Craig Calcaterra

Major League Baseball hall of famer  Willie Mays, who spent the majority of his career as a center fielder with the New York and San Francisco Giants, smiles as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball team, Monday, July 29, 2013, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. The team beat the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their second championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

You move for Willie Mays


SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ — Just a brief little thing from Giants camp today.

A representative from MLB was at the round table just inside the Giants’ clubhouse this morning, putting authentication stickers on baseballs and bats which he was then having players sign. I walked away to interview a player for a few moments and then walked back to the table, as it was a good place to camp out before deciding who to talk to next. When I got there, sitting at the table, instead of the MLB rep, was Willie Mays. Or, as I tend to refer to him whenever I encounter him, Willie Freakin’ Mays.

I walked over to the new table the MLB rep was occupying, having moved several boxes of baseballs and a couple dozen bats along with him, somewhat hastily. In a sarcastic tone I said “I don’t believe that old guy made you move. You were there first.” He laughed and then in a quiet voice, smiling but undeniably serious, said “That’s a man you move for.”

Even after a few years of doing this, if you’re not jaded, you still stop and marvel every once in awhile at the fact that sometimes you find yourself in a room with 40 guys who are among the absolute best in the world at your favorite thing in the world. Then, every so often, you find yourself in the same room as the absolute best to ever play the game, bar none.



Sean Doolittle and Eireann Dolan: not sticking to baseball

FILE - In this July 23, 2014, file photo, Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Sean Doolittle throws to the Houston Astros during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif. Doolittle's girlfriend Eireann Dolan had no idea she would inspire a movement just by offering her support to the gay community.(AP Photo/File)

Sean Doolittle of the Oakland A’s and Eireann Dolan of HBT’s corporate cousin, CSN Bay Area, both work in sports. They do not, however, “stick to sports,” as many fans would have athletes do. They’re both active in their community and active in causes that matter to them, as this excellent profile by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times demonstrates.

Oakland Baseball’s first couple are not unique among sports figures in their philanthropic impulses, of course. Almost all players do charity work and community outreach in important and sincere ways and both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA make a point to recognize such efforts with awards each year.

As Kepner notes, however, Doolittle and Dolan are different in a sense in that, while Doolittle does a great deal of the same sorts of things a lot of players do — work with veterans’ groups being a prime example — some of the things they do are outside of the purview of typical baseball philanthropy, with LGBT outreach and work with Syrian refugees being the two most prominent examples. As Kepner notes, these are the sorts of things that are “rarely discussed, let alone endorsed, in the strongly right-leaning culture of the baseball clubhouse.”

In the past, when Doolittle and Dolan’s work with this stuff has been highlighted, many criticized them for being “political.” I find it sad and, in many ways, telling, that being involved in outreach to the marginalized and ostracized is considered a political stance or a man-bites-dog story as opposed to a simple matter of human decency. It is certainly not incumbent on anyone to get involved in such causes, but if you actually take issue with people who support the victims of intolerance and discrimination, what are you actually advocating?

That’s an unexamined question in society at large, and certainly one not often discussed in the unique culture of baseball. However it’s answered, here’s hoping that, in the future, the mere fact baseball players care about such things is not as newsworthy as the actual efforts they undertake are.

Joe Maddon doesn’t want to hear old timers complain about the younger generation

Joe Maddon

The Unwritten Rules stuff — and almost everything else to do with baseball, actually — lends itself to old timers talking about how things were different back in their day and how the younger generation is softer and coddled. It’s amazing that the world hasn’t gotten there yet, but to hear some people talk it’s been heading to Hell in a hand basket for several generations in a row.

Against that backdrop, Cubs manager Joe Maddon talked yesterday about how people need to just drop that nonsense:

“I’ve really thought a lot about this obviously because I’ve always been attacked for new methods. And I try to think about it and my conclusion is every 20-25 years the group that shows up then is viewed as being less tough, less macho than the group that existed 20-25 years before that … and that group has to understand the group before that thought those guys weren’t so tough.

“So it’s just the way the world evolves. One thing I do is pray for perspective. I did grow up in the ’60s and ’70s and we didn’t like the establishment at all. We hated it, or we didn’t believe in it all. And then you move the dial forward 30 years, and all of sudden the same dudes I grew up with are acting like the same people they didn’t like 30 years ago. That bums me out.

Yup. And even those most aware of this dynamic fall prey to it. Even Joe Maddon himself has trafficked in generational politics from time to time in some pretty inconsistent ways. Maybe this is a situation where he takes issue with some specific young person stuff in the moment even if he is generally trying to be more open about it. He wouldn’t be the first older guy to struggle with these things.

The impulse to think less of the generation which follows you is unfortunate, but it’s understandable. It’s way bigger than baseball, of course, as we see it play out in virtually every walk of life. Not to be overly dramatic about things, but I think it’s wrapped up in feelings of mortality and efforts to maintain a claim on youth and relevance just as one begins to feel like they no longer have either. It can be sobering and maybe even scary when you see your “replacement” come online. It makes you start to realize that the world will continue to function just fine without you occupying a prominent position in it. It makes you start to realize that, eventually, the world will continue to function without you in the world at all.

So what do most people do? They make an extra effort to assert their relevance. If they can’t do it directly by continuing to occupy their old position of prominence, they do the next best thing: they tell a story about how things aren’t as good now as they were when they did occupy that position. They blast the younger generation as inferior or entitled and less worthy of their station as they were. Taken to extremes it leads them to not just disparage the younger generation but to blame them for everything they can think of that is wrong.

We don’t have to do this. The art of aging gracefully is not in defying the process but in living ones’ life so that obsolescence is irrelevant. To always live the life you have to the best of your ability and to not try to live the life you used to have. And to realize that just because someone else is now living the life you used to have doesn’t mean you never lived it. In baseball that may mean that a former player should be able to remember his own career fondly without having to disparage those who are still active. To find one’s self worth in being the best manager or coach or broadcaster or retired guy doing something completely different that he can be instead of defining his self-worth by what he did between the ages of 18 and 37 or whatever and to blast the younger generation as a means of doing so. This applies to all of us, of course, not just athletes.

It’s insanely hard to do. Our culture venerates youth and collectively fears aging so much that the concept of living one’s life in the present instead of as some eternally young person is not something we talk about much let alone work on. Our addiction to nostalgia makes it even harder. So too do the aches and pains and health problems we experience as we get older. There are so many forces at work — good memories, bad impulses and physical things with which we can’t negotiate — telling us that all that matters was what happened when we were young. Getting past that is very, very hard. Most people don’t manage it well, I think.

But we should try to. We should try to live our lives in the present and to look to the future, not dwell on the past. We don’t get much time here as it is. Why limit our conscious appreciation of life to only the first 30-40 years of it?