Quitting baseball is tough. Or, maybe I should say trying to quit baseball is tough. I’m not sure that those who have played the game and loved it can ever really quit. It just won’t leave you. It’s part of who you are. Maybe that’s why it’s so tough to walk away. Someone once said – I can’t recall who – that you don’t hold a baseball; it holds you.
There is much about the game of baseball that forms and changes the soul. The smells, the sounds, the cliches, the uniforms, the brotherhood – all come together to create an album of memories. These stay with us for a lifetime, and when teammates rejoin years later, the game of baseball is there to take them back to the days when a ball, a bat, and a mitt were the tools of friendship and pledge of loyalty.
When my boys were nearing the end of their high school baseball days, I told them that, eventually, they will quit playing baseball. It may be on their terms, or someone else’s, but baseball will stop. And, when it does – when you quit playing a game that has been part of you for so many years – it’s like a friend has died.
Walking Away from the Game
In the movie Bull Durham (which I still contend is the greatest movie about baseball), Crash Davis, a career minor-leaguer, has to call it quits. It was tough. He was tired. And all of us who ever quit the game at whatever level we played could relate.
And, who can forget the famed speech by Lou Gehrig in the cathedral known as Yankee Stadium. Though he was terminally ill, Gehrig still considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Yesterday, two baseball stories emerged from the news that involved quitting baseball. The stories are polar opposites regarding the reasons for quitting, yet they still give us an intimate view of what it means to leave the game behind.
Rafael Palmiero, who has Hall of Fame stats after spending years in baseball, was involved in the congressional investigation of rampant steroid use in professional baseball years ago. He vehemently denied using steroids, but later failed a drug test. His exit from baseball was, and still is, painful. You can read it here.
Adam LaRoche is another who quit baseball recently. He walked away from $13 million
because he was told not to bring his son to work again. Initially, it was one of those stories that seemed odd, like there was more to the story than was being told. As it turns out, there is. Read the article and watch the interview here.
Walking away from baseball is tough. For those who have played the game, and played it long, it is a constant companion that follows us wherever we go. And, a memory from years ago can appear out of nowhere and be as fresh as yesterday. Maybe that says more about the game than us. As the movie Bull Durham closes, Annie says of the game,
“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”