We Are Wilmer

We are happy. We are sad.

We are good. We are bad.

We are smiles. We are sorrow.

We are today. We are tomorrow.

We are hits. We are outs.

We are wins. We are doubts.

We are friends. We are foes.

We are joy. We are woes.

We are bought. We are sold.

We are young. We are old.

We are players. We are fan.

We are people. He is the man.

I am Wilmer. You are Wilmer.

We, are Wilmer.


Dugouts Of Despair

The needle laid indiscriminately between sharp blades of green grass. The summer scorch days away from turning the lush diamond into a hardened slab of dirt and dust.

The boy had previously been instructed by his coaches not to lay a finger or mitt on these discarded syringes yet by this point of the little league season he and his teammates had stumbled across so many of these “spikes” as they were known throughout this small New England town that they all might as well have been named honorary medical personnel.

The boy waved his arms in the air and the umpires brought the game to a stop so that the authority figures could assess the situation, a process which the boy found comical given that it was these drug addicted adults leaving needles strewn about the baseball field as if they were fertilizer.

Sadly though, more and more kids, some only a few years older than the boy, had begun experimenting with drugs. A slippery slope with a sad ending. For most, young and old, it starts with a simple pain. Either physical or emotional the remedy is usually the same. A pill a day will dull your senses just long enough for the problem to metastasize and turn into a cancerous lump of heartbreak and despair. Soon one pill’s not enough. Or two. Or three. And when the bottle dries up and the doctor gets suspiscious, that’s when the real hunger sets in.

The dope starts in cities like New York, Boston and Montreal before making its way up and down the interstates and thoroughfares of New England until finally mainlining on main street, threatening to change the chemical makeup of one of America’s most historic regions. Heroin, the new opiate of the masses has no care or concern for personal finances or social well being. The drugs are cheap and readily available. Rich and poor. Educated and self made. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.

Nowadays, junkies were trading train tunnels for baseball dugouts and the results extended well beyond the box score. The boy stepped away from the needle while his coach called the police. Authorities had done their best to keep things on lockdown but there were too many broken links in the chain to keep them all out. Some, were former players themselves who only years earlier were the ones hitting home runs and making memories. Unfortunately the passing of time had left too many former all-stars feeling alone, unwelcome. The only comfort and solitude to be found in a syringe.

As the police cleared the scene the baseball field was deemed ready for play the boy resumed his position in the outfield. Head held high. Future uncertain. For how long would it be until the drugs made their way into his home. From glove to glove box, bat to basement. Nothing was sacred. Not even the sports we play.

A Murderer Enters The Baseball Hall of Fame

Contrary to popular belief, the most wanted criminal in the world is not Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, who broke out of a Mexican prison earlier this month. No currently, the most sought after fugitive from justice is quite a lot taller than the diminutive drug kingpin and will soon be spotted lurking around the grounds of the historic Otesaga Resort Hotel in the tiny hamlet of Cooperstown, New York. This is because on Sunday, Randy Johnson is scheduled to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame but, if aviary officials have their way the 6’10” inch “Big Unit”,  as he is commonly known by accomplices, will be standing trial for murder.

Here are the facts as we know them. On March 24th, 2001, Johnson, already more than halfway through his two decade long career and pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks, took the mound in a Spring Training game against the San Francisco Giants. It was during the 7th inning of this contest that the absurdly length left-hander delivered one of his patented 95 mph pitches directly into the flight path of an innocent dove. The force of the fastball reduced the the bird to feathers as its lifeless carcass faltered to the earth. Below you can watch the raw, uncut video of the moment Randy Johnson blew up a bird. (Caution…this video contains disturbing images that you’ve probably already seen before. Proceed with caution.)

The Diamondbacks would go on to win this meaningless game while in 2001 the Big Unit enjoyed one his best seasons in professional baseball leading the league in both ERA and strikeouts as well as winning his 4th Cy Young and first World Series.

Immediately following the gruesome incident Johnson demonstrated very little remorse in saying, “I didn’t think it was funny”. Failing to find the humor in the moment does not absolve one of any wrong doing and if the pitcher were really concerned about the well being of the bird perhaps he would have approached the featherless remains to assess whether or not CPR was warranted. Instead he remains dumfounded in front of the mound waiting for catcher Rod Barajas to throw him a clean baseball without any bird blood on it.

Now, 14 years and lord knows how many more dead doves later, Randy Johnson is a free man soon to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame alongside fellow inductees Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, none of whom, as far as we know, has ever been suspected of murdering a bird with a baseball.

Maybe if Johnson didn’t already have a history of attempted manslaughter could we then believe that he didn’t intend to harm that dove however we baseball fans, remember the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards in Baltimore when the Big Unit, then pitching for the Seattle Mariners, almost decapitated Phillies’ first baseman John Kruk. Kruk was so visibly shaken by the near death experience that he could barely muster even a few feeble swings while the only sign of emotion from the sinister Seattle pitcher was a conniving wink and smile.

With members of the Audubon and Humane Societies amongst the thousands of people flocking to upstate New York for this weekend’s Hall of Fame festivities, Major League Baseball remains confident that the statute of limitations on murder of bird by baseball has expired and that the celebration will go off without incident.

Nevertheless, it’s very difficult to appreciate Randy Johnson’s remarkably dominant baseball career while also thinking about that dove’s family, waiting in vain for their daddy to return to the nest. Little did they know that their father was killed by a fastball. But not just any kind of fastball, a Hall of Fame fastball.

A Baseball Buffet

A second half. Before the belly has been filled. When the appetite still hungers.

A Major League baseball season is not all that different from a four course meal. Spring Training is the soup, warm and salty like your favorite tomato bisque. The first half of the regular season is the appetizer, just enough to hold you over until the main course arrives. After the all-star break and up through September is the entree, the meat of the regular season when the contenders separate themselves from the pretenders like marrow out of the bone. Dessert is the postseason when the survivors indulge in the opportunity at history and the eternal sweetness of a World Series championship.

But back to the second half of the season, a story about to be written. This is the time when doubts are raised and the cream rises to the top. When teams swap high priced stars for unproven prospects like a patron at a five star restaurant returning an undercooked steak in the hopes that it will return at the right temperature just as the colder weather hits and three scoops of the postseason awaits.

Questions about the menu are quite common this time of year. Can the Astros continue their season du jour? Will Missouri remain the chef’s choice with both the Royals and Cardinals playing like a couple slabs of prime cut? And will the Cubs remain in the race like fresh catch or will their season spoil like so many barrels of fish before?

Baseball fans understand that with the second half of the season about to begin now is not the time for the squeamish, for the faint of heart and stomach. If you want to have what it takes to make it through to dessert you better take a few deep breaths and loosen up the belt a couple notches because from here on out the food is served fast and eyes become bigger than stomachs.

Fear of a Dwarf Planet

This morning we reached for the stars, this evening they take the field in Cincinnati. A childlike curiosity colliding on the shores of the Ohio River and the outer reaches of our galaxy.

It turns out that space and baseball share more in common than the relativity of time. Last night’s Home Run Derby demonstrated that a countdown can be a good thing, that something as simple as the the tic-toc of a clock can reignite interest in an event that had laid dormant for far too long.

Now baseball mustn’t stop there. America’s Pastime can continue to propel itself into the future by embracing a broader coalition of fans and rules to better align itself with the 21st century. Speed up rules must take affect, ticket prices must be curtailed. The derby was a start but more can be done, more can always be done.

Same is true for space. Today our solar system is full of one fewer unknown now that images of Pluto have been beamed back across the Milky Way giving us our best glance yet of the icy orb.

Space however remains a bundle full of mysteries, a horizon lined with question marks and quantum leaps. Collectively, human beings have placed superficial limits on our understanding by allowing things as trivial and earthly as budget cuts and deficits to determine our intellectual reach. The answers are out there, somewhere amidst the suns and supernovas and unless we foster inquiry and fund future exploration then we run the risk of succumbing to our own inertia. Thinking inward rather than outward towards the ever expanding fringes of our universe will spell an untimely end for human existence on Earth.

Yet, as the Home-Run Derby proved last night, the clock should not be feared. The unknown must be embraced.