For the love of the game? Eh, not so much

23 Comments

Dirk Hayhurst, currently a farmhand at Durham and, of course, the author of “The Bullpen Gospels” and the upcoming “Out of My League,” hates to burst your bubble, but he does not play baseball for the love of the game:

So, dear baseball purist, you ask why then do I play? … Because I enjoy it more than the alternative. Because I’ve spent my life training to do it and walking away to another profession is easier said than done. Because I need the healthcare benefits (as crappy as they are). Because there are certain perks this job has that others don’t. Because making it to the top sets you up for the rest of your life, if you’re good enough to get there.

Admit it, none of these answers sound as satisfactory, noble, or fulfilling as love, do they? Some even sound selfish. But they are the real reasons. Real, boring, reasons John Forgerty wouldn’t dare pen a lyric too. Furthermore, if you took even a third of them away, I would have to seriously reevaluate why I keep doing this job.

It’s not a cranky rant. It’s a realistic take that I am certain Hayhurst is not alone in having among men who play baseball for a living.  That “love of the game” stuff is mostly for us fans. It’s a job to these guys. At least those of them who haven’t made millions doing it.  I see that on the face of the non-prospects when I go to Columbus Clippers game.  I’ve heard from other writers who talk to journeymen ballplayers that the sentiment is common.

But rarely is it put as well as Hayhurst puts it here.  And, contrary to what you might expect, it makes me appreciate these guys way more than if they were all “rah-rah, I heart baseball” about it.

 

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.