There is an old adage about baseball that fans like to throw around. "Every day you come to the park you might see something new." Baseball is that kind of sport, the kind of sport where on any given day you could see something never before seen. Perhaps its an Indian rookie hitting the very first pitch he sees deep into the left field stands for a Grand Slam. Or a pitcher save his 500th game.
Last night at the Home Run Derby, baseball fans were given such a moment. While Josh Hamilton may not have won the Home Run Derby, such details seem secondary to the show he put on. But more then the display of raw, Roy Hobbs like power, is the story behind the show. By now, Hamilton's story of overcoming his addiction, working his way back and being reinstated into baseball, is well known throughout America. Hamilton made his Major League Debut last year, 8 years after being Tampa Bay's number 1 pick. But it was last night that he formally introduced himself to America.
Peter Gammons writes a great blog entry about baseball heroes showing up at the right time. While the game continues to be entangled in the scandals of Balco (scandals that have claimed arguably this generations best hitter and best pitcher), one need only look to last night to see how bright the future of baseball is. Hamilton, Utley, Uggla, Morneau, Longoria. These are hardly household names...yet.
I like baseball for many reasons. I like that you can't hold the ball and run out the clock to win, everyone gets a fair shake at winning, that many different strategy's produce can produce a win and that there is room for many different kinds of athletes. I like the nuances of the game, the fundamentals as well as the follies. And I like stories like Josh Hamilton, or Rick Ankiel, or Jim Abbot, or Jon Lester.