In life and baseball, time marches on
Sunday, January 12, 2014 12:34 AM
In general, I have no problem with getting older.
At 35, I feel great. I still feel young, and that’s somewhat by design.
I work hard to keep up with social media, pop culture, current events, trends and the latest in movies, music and politics. The way things are today, you either get with it or get left behind. I’m along for the ride.
Also, my 5-year-old daughter Charley puts a spring in my step and joy in my heart. Her smile and laughter and boundless curiosity give me a unique energy. She is, hands down, the best thing that ever happened to me.
However, as young as my daughter makes me feel and despite my efforts to stay current, getting older is an inescapable reality. No need to fight it, just roll with it.
When I let my beard grow, it’s flecked with more than a little bit of gray. The old salt-and-pepper.
I’m losing more and more hair every year. My daughter sometimes calls me “Bald Guy.”
The thing about getting gray in your beard or losing your hair is, those things happen bit by bit, over the course of time. They don’t make you suddenly think, “Man, I’m getting old.”
However, sometimes you get a bit of news that gives you some perspective and, all of the sudden, reminds you time is indeed marching on.
That happened for me this week, with the announcement Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
When I heard that trio of players — particularly the former Atlanta Braves greats Maddux and Glavine — had been elected to the Hall, it gave me pause.
That can’t be right, can it? I’m not that old, am I?
The Baseball Hall of Fame, that’s for old guys from way back when. Not guys I grew up watching. Not the heroes of my youth.
Alas, it’s true. Glavine, Maddux and Thomas have been retired for years, long enough to have become eligible for the Hall of Fame.
Maddux pitched — most notably for the Braves and Chicago Cubs — from 1986-2008. The left-handed Glavine pitched for the Braves and the Mets from 1987-2008.
Thomas — the burly 6-foot-5 first baseman affectionately known as The Big Hurt — played for a number of teams, most notably the Chicago White Sox, from 1990-2008.
LIKE MANY OTHERS, I collected baseball cards as a kid. It was right in the time period when card collecting was transitioning from being an innocent hobby for kids to being an “investment” of sorts.
I used to get Beckett magazine every month and look up what my cards were “worth.” Granted, I did not then, nor have I ever, sold a baseball card, so I’m not sure what good it did me to know the “value” of my collection. Still, it was fun.
(In a related aside, the most memorable edition of Beckett magazine was easily the June 1990 issue, which featured an iconic black-and-white photo of two-sport star Bo Jackson on the cover. In the photo, a shirtless Jackson dons a pair of football pads and holds a baseball bat across his shoulders. Kids were literally committing armed robbery to get a copy of that issue.)
In the summer of 1991, I wrote a letter to Glavine. I mailed it to Fulton County Stadium. In the letter, I included a Glavine baseball card — 1991 Fleer, the one which shows him sliding into home — and asked him if he would autograph the card.
Some weeks later, I received a reply from the pitcher. He sent back a form letter, a Braves pocket schedule and, wouldn’t you know it, he actually autographed the card I sent him. I cherished it then and I still have it today.
Sixteen years after that letter exchange, I traveled to Chicago with some of my best buddies to see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. We planned the trip months in advance, and the Cubs were playing the Mets. The game was on Aug. 5, 2007.
As it turned out, Glavine was pitching for the Mets that night and actually was going for his 300th career win. Obviously, 300 wins is a hallmark achievement for Major League pitchers, a goal rarely accomplished.
Glavine was 20 years into his career by that point, and the end of the line was near. In fact, he would only win five more games after that night.
But, as I sat and watched from a cramped upper deck seat along the first baseline on a hot August night, Glavine found some of the old magic.
He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up only two runs. The Mets went on to win 8-3 and Glavine had his elusive 300th victory.
And now he is heading to the Hall of Fame, along with two other greats of his era.
In my memory, Glavine and Maddux are still two cocky young hurlers, painting the corners, leading the Braves to the playoffs in the early 1990s and making Atlanta fans forget about the doldrums of the 1980s. Thomas is still is a strapping young first baseman fresh out of Auburn University, launching balls into the Chicago night, flashing that trademark grin.
Those days have passed, and, for them, the Hall awaits.
As for me, I still have all of my old baseball cards, long tucked away in a closet in a spare bedroom. I can still take them out on a Sunday afternoon and show them to my daughter, and talk about old times and great players.
And, in that moment, I can feel like a kid again. It doesn’t feel like that long ago.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.