Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Hollow Sound Of One's Own Steps In Flight

And at the moment
That my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow
In your eyes...
- Fountain of Sorrow
Jackson Browne

Tuesday night I did something that I have not done in too many years to remember - I watched a bit of the MLB All-Star Game.  I did so not because I buy into the faux proposition that "This time it counts", which I do not.  I care not that home-field advantage for the World Series is predicated upon the outcome of the game and I surmise that if MLB really cared - and expected its managers and players to do so as well - it would tweak the game in two ways. 

First, the managers of each squad would not be the men whose teams played in previous World Series.  Rather, the managers of each team would be the two men whose teams - at the All-Star Break - have the best record in their respective leagues.  Second, not every team would have to be represented.  If the skipper of the AL All-Stars wanted to fill out his roster and his pitching staff with the roster of his "Best in the League" squad, then he would be encouraged to do so.  After all, this time it counts. 

But I digress.

I watched bits of the game because I am a Yankees fan and I have spent the past two decades or so watching Derek Jeter play with equal parts admiration and respect.  He has not only faithfully manned his position with aplomb since 1996 but has done so while representing his family, the sport in which he earns his living, the city in which he earns it and the franchise that has written him every professional baseball paycheck he has ever earned with dignity.  Derek Jeter has been a great player for the New York Yankees.  More than that, though, he has been great - not only for his sport  - but for sport.  The business of athletics needs men and women like Jeter, who earn the respect of their peers because of the free manner in which he has given it to those who have earned it from him. 

I smiled when he got his two hits - and I care not at all whether Adam Wainwright grooved one to him during his first at-bat.  I loved that Wainwright left his glove on the mound and then stood behind it when Jeter came to bat in the bottom of the first inning not only encouraging the protracted ovation Jeter received but ensuring that it could go on for as long as the voices of those quenched in the water of 10,000 Lakes could sustain it. 


 
I smiled more than just a little watching him play in the field.  I think what I enjoyed most of all was not the leather he flashed out there but that he got to do it while playing alongside Robinson Cano.  I have been a Yankees fan long enough that Cano's departure via free agency this past off-season awakened in my mind's eye the image of Andy Pettitte pulling on a Houston Astros cap shortly after the 2003 World Series.  Halfway through Cano's first season away from the Bronx his absence in the middle of the infield and the lineup is felt with a resonance akin to Andy J.'s absence from the rotation in 2004. 

But I smiled most of all watching Jeter take his "victory lap".  Kudos to John Farrell, the skipper of the Red Sox, for sending him out to play the field and then sending the White Sox shortstop out to replace him, which enabled yet another extended ovation from the crowd.  As Jeter made his way through the dugout, exchanging hugs and congratulations with his All-Star teammates and coaches, he did so in the business-like, brisk manner in which he does most things baseball-related. 

It was when he emerged from the dugout to once again acknowledge the crowd's ovation and to pay his respects to them that his eyes betrayed him - just a little bit.  For a brief moment it appeared as if the solemnity of the moment, which right up until game time last night he sought to dispatch with nonchalance, landed squarely on his shoulders.  It was as if at just that moment in time it occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, this was an event worthy of a little bit of fuss.  And that maybe, just maybe, he is as well...



...He would have been right on both counts. 

-AK

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