When I was 14 years old I came to grips with the fact that I probably wasn’t going to play professional baseball.
I wasn’t a small kid but I wasn’t big either. I didn’t have what scouts would call a “live bat.” I was always a good contact hitter, but if you threw a meatball over the plate I was just as likely to drop in a cheap single as I was to do any serious damage.
But I continued playing until I moved in the midst of high school and have been a lifelong fan of the game. I understand the rules. I also understand the “code” that exists within the sport. Is that code stupid? Maybe, considering you have some pitchers drilling players with 99 mph heaters, but it is what it is.
So I was in no way shocked or outraged when Cole Hamels drilled Bryce Harper in the back last week. It’s all part of the game within the game.
Cole was trying to send a message. Furthermore, he did it the right way. Glancing a fastball off someone’s back will sting, but it’s not their head, wrist or ankle. Bryce wasn’t going to miss any playing time. (In fact, the move only inspired him to steal home later that inning in the ultimate “kiss my ass” response.)
What made this situation different was Cole’s admission after the game that yes, he did it on purpose and yes, he was trying to send a message. And just like that the world was treated to a universe in which people actually answer questions asked of them.
Look, I’m in public relations. People don’t just say things like that. Messages and responses are massaged, tweaked and formulated. With my background I was somewhat shocked to hear an honest answer.
The situation landed Hamels a five game suspension. He’ll miss one start. But hopefully the punishment doesn’t deter athletes from honesty in the future.
If I’m a parent – and I will be in about two weeks when my daughter arrives – the Hamels situation helps me illustrate two things to my kids. The first is, there may be consequences but honesty is critical. The second is, don’t do something you would be ashamed to take credit for down the road.
Those are two good life lessons. How odd is it that in today’s world sometimes it takes a 95 MPH fastball to the back for us to receive them from people we look up to?