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Sometimes, It Does Take a Village

April 19, 2016

“The whole world is asleep
You can look at it and weep
Few things you find are worthwhile
And though I don’t ask for much
No material things to touch
Lord, protect my child”

– Bob Dylan,
from Lord Protect My Child

In 1996, Hillary Clinton went on a ten-city book tour to promote her book, It Takes a Village. As with all things Clinton, there was a lot of controversy and national discussion. I remember thinking that a lot of it was uninteresting and pointless, just another opportunity for political opponents to posture. The broad criticisms from Republicans and other Clinton haters were ridiculous from the start, with claims that Clinton was advocating that parents outsource raising their children to big government. They said that her ideas for government programs designed to reduce child poverty and support children’s health and education were all part of a sly scheme to undermine parents. To these critics, the book was just more evidence that Clinton’s feminist and socialist agenda was at work to once and for all give government the control over our most cherished treasure, the family. No matter how much criticism, even contempt, that the Clintons bring on themselves, I think that most of the outcry about the book was no more than recycled, pull-it off-the shelf rhetoric to hit the right notes with their political base, and not an attempt for an honest policy discussion.

Our boys were young when Clinton’s book was in the news. We were fully committed our sons and we devoted every day to their healthy upbringing. Nothing was more important to us. We had the good fortune to afford stay-at-home parenting, the time for daily drives to and from private schools, shelves of books at home and many other routines and advantages that can help a child find his place in the world. We chose schools on a number of factors, including the pedagogy, the curriculum and in high school, the academic standards as well.

The adults in our children’s lives were always of the utmost importance to us. We sought schools with an environment that encouraged and shaped strong character, kindness, citizenship, and the ability to think independently. It’s pretty hard to find these schools where the adults in charge don’t have these and the other favorable traits that we all want for our kids. Many of my boys’ teachers and principals cared deeply for their students and were exemplars of professional educators every school day. They watched over our boys as if they were their own. I lost touch with every one of them years ago, but remain grateful. Yes, we had our village back then.

A parent’s concerns never fade. No matter how many years it has been since we read to them, packed their lunches or helped them with their homework, most parents continue thinking about their kids and their welfare. My parents still pray for my siblings and me. Maybe every day. Emmylou Harris used to tell the story that even though she was 61 years old, her mother insisted that she wear a helmet when she rode a bicycle. If you’re a parent, maybe you know what I am talking about.

*********

Last Friday, K and I went out to the yard to watch the Giants game. We had a great time. She enjoys baseball, loves to watch the Giants and knows the ballpark as well as anyone. We met in the City and is her way, she had two tickets to excellent seats behind the plate. With the comfort in the knowledge that Saturday mornings don’t come with alarm clocks, we sat through the entire game – all ten innings –  mostly in the rain. Our Giants hats, clothes and the peanuts that she brought into the yard with her were soggy by the end of it all.

The Dodgers were in town. We watched a match-up between the Giants former ace, Matt Cain, and Ross Stripling, a Dodgers rookie pitcher. The fact that either of these two guys were pitching is all be improbable.

Cain has battled arm injuries for the past three years and doesn’t seem to have a lot left in the tank. I wonder each time he pitches if it will be the last time we will see him on the mound. On that night however, Cain looked fine. Not like we knew him just a few short years ago, but better than we’ve seen recently.

Stripling didn’t even expect to pitch in the majors this early in the season. He broke Spring Training with the team only because other Dodger pitchers were injured. Further, he had surgery on his pitching arm in 2014 and after recovery, didn’t play much at all in 2015. His only goal this year was to prove that he could still pitch. It didn’t take long to show everyone at the ballpark that he belonged. He looked good. Real good. In the fifth inning, K and I noted to each other that the kid was throwing a no-hitter. In the history of the game, rookies have thrown no-hitters only twenty-two times. It’s a rare feat.

20160408_205809 (2)

Ross Stripling throwing to Hunter Pence in the 7th inning.

After the sixth inning – another three-up-three-down inning – I sent my chums a text letting them know that something was going on. In the seventh inning, the middle of the Giants batting order, including Giants stars, Hunter Pence and Buster Posey came to bat. Stripling walked Pence but then Posey hit into a routine double play. The next batter, Matt Duffy, grounded out to second. The no-hitter still intact, I sent out the next missive.

Brandon Crawford lead off the 8th inning with a fly out to right field. At that point, Stripling only needed five more outs to distinguish himself as the first pitcher since 1892 to throw a no-hitter in his major league debut. Angel Pagan was up next and with a 3-1 count, on Stripling’s 100th pitch, drew a walk. Immediately, the Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts, came out to the mound and called to the bullpen. It was a quick yank. Whatever dreams Stripling or his teammates had about making history were shot. Dodgers fans in the stands were stunned, the loudest of which made their displeasure known. Even Giants fans were surprised. We were all thinking that we were about to see this young man experience a joy of his lifetime.

After the game, Roberts explained that Stripling was on a strict pitch count. Given his recent arm surgery, the team’s medical staff and management had set a limit of one hundred pitches. No questions asked. He said that they didn’t want to risk Stripling’s health by keeping him out there too long. I don’t think that any of them anticipated that Stripling would be throwing a no-hitter when that last pitch came; it’s just not that easy for any pitcher, let alone a rookie.

Bumpus Jones was the last rookie pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his debut, when he was a 22-yr. old kid in 1872.

Bumpus Jones was the last rookie pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a MLB debut, when he was a 22-yr. old kid in 1872.

Stripling told the press after the game that it was the right decision and that he could feel his arm getting tired. We can take him at his word, but as with any ambitious young person, I’m sure a part of him also wanted to stay out there to wrap it up. It’s only natural.

The next day, Stripling’s father bumped into Roberts in the team’s hotel lobby. With tears in his eyes, he thanked Roberts for taking care of his son. He told Roberts that he appreciated that he was protecting his son’s arm. His son hasn’t played Little League for fifteen years. There’s no more driving him to practice or managing the game day diet and other routines. There are no baseball uniforms stinking up the laundry room anymore and Stripling left the house years ago to pitch in college and the minor league. But Stripling’s dad is still a parent. He knows how important it is to have others around his son who will keep an eye on him and watch out for him when he needs it. Sometimes, it takes a village.

 

 

 

 

32 Comments
  1. You might really like Jeff Passan’s book “The Arm” about Tommy John surgeries, as much of it focuses on promising young players and the difficult — never black-or-white — decisions that parents must make about balancing their children’s health with their potential. He includes kids pitching in Japan as well, which opens up the discussion of Koshien, the high-school level tournament which encourages the best pitchers to pitch full games, day after day, hundreds and hundreds of pitches, in pursuit of the win and out of loyalty and respect for the team.

    Parents are faced with so many difficult decisions. It’s hard to know sometimes which is the right one. How fortunate to have others in the “village” to help guide and advise. Of course, in the world of promising young baseball stars, not everyone has the best interests of the young player at heart. But, I guess that’s something parents face everywhere.

    Thanks for the good read this morning …

    Like

    • Hi Jackie, Thanks for the reading tip. I heard Jeff Passan talk with Tom Ashbrook on the WBUR radio show, “On Point.” It seems like “The Arm” is a good book. The TJ surgery is almost a right of passage for the pitchers. At a minimum, it seems very difficult to avoid. I hadn’t heard about Koshien. Cruel.

      Your O Birds are looking good.

      Like

  2. Awesome that you were at that game with so much thrill and agony. Because I didn’t know the “rest of the story” I wasn’t sure where you were going … but then the part about the pitcher’s father – the part I didn’t know. A perfect ending to your post.

    Enjoy Johnny Cueto this season … and I hope he pitches well for your team.

    Like

    • Hi Frank, Thanks for Cueto. So far, so good. He is off to a good start. We also learned that he can blow one heck of a bubble with gum. Huge bubbles. Dugout entertainment. We were all a bit stunned when Roberts came out to the mound. We’ll never know if it was the right decision, but it seems like all the primary parties are in agreement that it was the right thing to do at the time. That’s good enough for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A good post, Bruce. I admire your love for the game and your dedication as a parent.

    Like

  4. “though she was 61 years old, her mother insisted that she wear a helmet when she rode a bicycle. If you’re a parent, maybe you know what I am talking about.”—Oh, indeed I do. Though I’ve quit suggesting my college son wear a coat in the winter (well, mostly…), I still can’t put dumb thoughts out of my head like, “What if he gets stranded and freezes to death?” Of course, it didn’t help that last winter I read about two college students who froze to death because they were underdressed. (Of course, they were also inebriated, but how horrific to hear. :/ )

    Like

    • Carrie,

      Coats in the winter only make sense. Right? Just like gloves and a cap do also. Here’s a good one for you to try – suggest that he takes an umbrella to keep dry during the rain storm. I think there’s a short period in a boy’s life when they simply forget how to open an umbrella.

      My generation gets labeled as obsessive parents (sometimes correctly) but Emmylou’s mom shows that we were not the first. I think we just took it to a new level.

      Like

  5. I’m not a baseball fan at all, but this brought tears to my eyes. Hillary was right.

    Like

    • Hi Elyse, Thanks for sticking with the post all the way through the baseball part.

      The game had to be emotional for Stripling and his family. I think even the most hardened in the dugouts would also have been moved by the dilemma.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Well done. I saw the tag for SF Giants and then started reading about Hillary’s book and thought you had lost a step or two. But the connections are there. Very well done. I read an article about Stripling’s father’s response to his son getting pulled out of the game and realized that it was the right move. At the time, I wondered. But when you think about the fact that to get through the 9th inning, he probably would have needed another 20-30 pitches … well, okay. Probably didn’t make sense to keep him out there.

    Now if only Cain can experience some rejuvenation!

    Like

    • Hello Mark, I was initially stunned, but then quickly thought the Dodgers were simply protecting their investment. Roberts out at the mound telling Stripling, “It’s only business, kid.”

      Who knows if this was the right decision for Stripling? Not Roberts, not Stripling’s father, not Stripling and certainly, not me. Another 20-30 pitches on a tender arm could have been a disaster. A no-hitter would put Stripling in the record books forever, right alongside Bumpus Jones. A moral dilemma playing out right there in front of 42,000 people.

      The Village isn’t always right. Anyway, if Stripling’s father takes comfort with Roberts at the helm, then that’s good enough for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Two thumbs up! (and indeed, “it” does)

    Like

    • It was fun. When K sent me a text with the match-up, “Cain and a rookie up from Double A…” or the like, I was or course, curious. The Dodgers have a hot shot kid named Jose De Leon in the minors who they believe will be a big deal in the majors someday. So, I wondered how could they have yet another guy they would feel confident about on the road against our mighty Giants? Well, they did.

      Stripling looked good, but it was still hard to tell why the Giants weren’t getting any hits. Generally, most of them just seemed to be off balance and have poor timing. That’s all it takes, of course.

      So, my friend. Tell me what Mr. Greisaber (sp?) would have done if he was in Dave Roberts position and his son was on the mound? 🙂

      Like

      • I’m not good with hypotheticals…but I’m guessing he would have stayed the course. There is something to be said for taking shots at making history.

        Like

  8. I’ve yet to make it to a game this season, but I have plans to change that tomorrow night!

    Like

    • Tigers in town? Do I have that right? We went out to see the Royals last weekend, when they were in Oakland. The Blue lineup is still looking good.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, it was the Tigers. I have some pics I need to post. I’ve been in the process of moving, and with no internet at the new place for the first full week, staying on top of things has been difficult.

        Like

  9. I always enjoy the way you bring things together, Bruce. And often I find myself wondering, “Where is Bruce going now?” I’m never disappointed. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nice post. And it works the other way, too. My girls will always be my kids to worry about, but yesterday, my younger daughter stayed at an authors’ event with me, even though I’m sure she would rather have been doing other things. 🙂

    Like

  11. This is a great story, Bruce, and what an opportunity you had to witness it. I was torn at the moment I should have been: confusion about why the pitcher was pulled, then understanding why but protesting, then imagining the different reasons why a pitcher would be told to leave the mound. Reluctantly, I agreed with the decision. But when I realized there was a parent out there in the world, worrying, I had the same reaction as you. That’s all I needed to know to feel good about what happened. I guess Stripling is going to have a nice strong arm and show us some more good games in the future.

    Like

    • Hi Crystal, Just one more of those situations where the decisions are possible best left for those on the ground (or in this case, on the mound).

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You built the suspense, shared the emotion (your own excitement about the possibility of a rookie no-hitter and also the father’s tearful response) and kept us interested until the end. I always enjoy your posts, Bruce.
    Speaking of baseball, a friend of mine, a die hard baseball fan, has lent me the book Is This A Great Game or What by Tim Kurkjian. Rick and I meet for “Beer and Books” every so often and baseball often comes up as a topic of conversation. While I appreciate the history and tradition of baseball, I’ve not always been a fan of pro ball. We’ll see if Mr. Kurkjian can change my mind.

    I very much enjoy heading out to Calfee Park to watch Minor League Ball, though.
    http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp ymd=20050610&content_id=41751814&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_t425&sid=t425

    Like

    • Laurie – It looks like Calfee Park would be a terrific place to watch a game. Keep the book in the backpack and meet for “Beer and a Game” out at Calfee Park.

      A lot of baseball fans like to tune into Kurkijan. I’ve never paid much mind over here. I think if someone isn’t necessarily drawn to the game, but wants to take a peek now and again might want to listen to Jon Miller and Dave Fleming call the SF Giants games on the radio. They are the absolute best in the game and I always enjoy listening to their calls.

      Another fun choice is Vin Scully on the TV. In case you aren’t familiar with Vin, he’s been with the Dodgers since the 1950s. Yes, he’s been announcing the games almost 70 years. He knew Jackie Robinson, Walter O’Malley, Walt Alston, Sandy Koufax and hundreds of others associated with the Dodgers all the way back to the time that they played in Brooklyn.

      “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old timer’s game.”
      – Vin Scully

      https://brucekthiesen.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/vin-scully-los-angeles-dodgers/

      Your friend Rick will be able to tell you more, I would guess.

      Like

      • Thanks so much for linking me back to your post about Vin Scully. I really enjoyed the quotes you shared!

        Like

  13. I thought of you last week when I got to play hooky and attend a Red Sox game at Fenway – 1:30 p.m. – on a rare gorgeous sunny warm April Thursday. Everything just flew into the zone: a parking space on Newbury Street giving us a beautiful 15-minute walk to the park, a family-centered crowd (school break week) so the beer stalls were empty but the soda and dog line long, and I attended with my ‘little girl’ (now 30-something) and her little 3-year-old boy. It takes a village to enjoy a perfect baseball afternoon.

    Like

  14. I understand completely what you are saying about parenting. Much less what you are saying about the game 🙂

    Like

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