As it usually does, the annual World Series inspires baseball lovers and also gives us a few lessons about life.
In case you do not yet know, the Houston Astros won Game 7 in Los Angeles on Wednesday, earning their Hurricane-damaged city its first World Series trophy ever.
And it all started 20 years ago, with a game of catch.
Torii Hunter, one of my favorite baseball players, now retired, was still in the minor leagues in New Britain, Connecticut, when a young kid retrieved a ball and tossed it back to him. The future All-Star and 9-time Gold glove winner tossed the ball back to the kid, and the two played catch.
On Wednesday, that kid, George Springer, hit a double and home run, giving the Astros a 5-0 lead and putting them on the path to victory.
Earlier this year, Springer had told the story of how he was a bit of a baseball fan as a kid, but after playing catch with Torii Hunter, baseball became his goal. He also talked about how he now looks in the stands, thinking about the children watching him, and how they will impact the future of the game.
Although my job offers far less fame than Torii Hunter’s or George Springer’s, I find myself looking out, looking for young people looking up to me, trying to find a way to make them part of what I do, and hoping that some day they will remember me, and do the same.
There was another story that came out of this World Series, one that started very badly, but ended well.
Early in the game, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel did one of the classiest things in baseball, tipping his helmet to the opposing pitcher. Earlier in the World Series, Gurriel, a 33-year-old rookie MLB player who had played for years in his native Cuba, had done dumbest things in baseball this year. He celebrated a home run he had hit off of that same pitcher, Yu Darvish, with a gesture mocking the eyes of Darvish, who is Japanese.
It was a big blemish in an otherwise-inspiring nine days of great baseball, where the two teams who won the most games during the regular season played about as close of a series as possible.
If there is an award for off-field performance, it belongs to Darvish, who responded to the insult with these words: “Stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger.”
“No one is perfect. That includes both you and I,” Darvish wrote. “What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him.”
“Put our effort into learning.”
That’s great advice for all of us.
Darvish’s teammate, Rich Hill, was pitching the next game when Gurriel came up to bat. Hill heard the boos and stepped off the mound, giving the Dodger fans more time to express their anger at Gurriel.
Gurriel had tried to explain that he was telling his teammates and family that he had previously batted against Darvish and many other Japanese pitchers, and had a history of not doing so well.
I do believe him although he certainly could have found a better way.
But Darvish’s words, “put our effort into learning,” is something almost all of us can benefit from.
I think all of us have some sort of prejudice, some group or nationality of people we do not even try to understand, some way of speaking or talking or phrase we learned that does not belong in a thinking person’s vocabulary.
For me, growing up, that word was “Bohemian.”
My dad called just about everything he didn’t like “Bohemian.”
I do not know why, or where he learned it. I doubt that he was aware that Bohemia is a region of the nation we used to call Czechoslovakia, now known as the Czech Republic. I don’t know if Dad was referring to those residents of Bohemia, or to some other group of people who earned that title. He certainly never familiarized himself with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and I don’t think he ever met a real Bohemian.
I did. I was 35 or so when the word “Bohemian” slipped out of my mouth.
“I’m Bohemian,” replied someone in my office — someone who happened, at that time, to be my boss.
I tried to explain that my father had used that word all the time, but I never knew why.
The lesson from the Cuban batter and the Japanese pitcher this week is a reminder that we all have differences, and that those things should make life more interesting. Gurriel’s goof-up is a reminder to all of us to be aware of how easy it is to be disrespectful to others. Darvish’s dignity reminds us to respond with grace when things like this happen to us, and for the rest of us to put our effort into learning — more about us, and our world — when coming into contact with people from different parts of the world different customs, and different outlooks on life.
Baseball teaches us a lot, on the field, and off. That’s one of the reasons I love it. This year, it taught us more than usual, at a time when many of us need those lessons.