Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Seventh-Inning Stretch: Restoring my Faith in Baseball

Baseball has just gone through its most dubious era: the Steroid era. All achievements of the past 15 years will be tainted with the thoughts that the players cheated to get ahead. Watching the various Congressional inquiries of superstars and icons, like Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, as they lied through their teeth made me question if the players I had grown up cheering for were also taking steroids. The Mitchell Report was so startling because: (a) so many players were named, (2) so many players were mediocre or worse, and (d) all of these players came from so few sources. It showed that every player in professional baseball could have conceivably taken steroids. So now who could I cheer for?

But I have a new feel-good story that restores part of my faith in Major League Baseball: Scott Richmond. Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Scott played baseball all through high school. After high school, he thought his ball playing days were pretty well finished. He worked for 3 years in the Vancouver ports before picking up a baseball and playing in a wood bat league in Moose Jaw. There, he caught the eye of the coach of Missouri Valley College. At age 21, he enrolled as a freshman and pitched in Division III collegiate baseball. In 2003, he transferred to Bossier Parrish College in Louisiana. Just one year later, he moved up to Division I, pitching for 2 years for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, his name was not called in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. So at age 25, he tried out and made the Edmonton Cracker Cats, of the independent Northern League. He stayed there through last season, but he finally caught the break he was looking for.

One of his teammates was Rob Ducey, formerly of the Jays and currently preparing to play for Team Canada at the Olympics, called the Toronto Blue Jays on his behalf. He got signed after a tryout and started out the year playing for the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats. By June, he was in AAA, a step away from the Majors, playing for the Syracuse SkyChiefs. Not only was he now a professional baseball player, he had been named to Team Canada’s Olympic roster. Regrettably, he will not be making the trip to Beijing. Instead, he was called up by the Toronto Blue Jays. At age 28, he is poised to make his Major League debut tomorrow afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays.

No matter how well he does, I will still cheer for him. We all tend to focus on the great stats and forget about the great stories. It was the focus on the stats that brought about the Steroid Era, but it is the stories that will take us into the new era.
Peter Milway is a third-year Politics student at Queen's University, and author of
The Seventh-Inning Stretch

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