- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Th-th-th-that you can become great by being mean to people?" one kid answered after a long stretch of silence. "Th-th-th-that the meaner you are, the better you are? That you should be...what's the word? Conceited? Stuck on yourself?"
I shook this child's hand. A start.
I explained that greatness means you can ride over everyone, that you are above the crowd, that what applies to everyone else surely should not apply to you. Why settle for less? Be a star. I told the long story of Bonds's salary negotiations and his arbitration hearing, which he lost. That means he's going to earn only $2.3 million this year, when he thought he deserved $3.25 million. Why should he pretend to be happy if he is not happy? He's a star. He should say what he wants to say. He should do what he wants to do. His dogs should come to him. The Pirates should be laying a path of red velvet from the dugout to the plate for him, maybe sprinkling a few rose petals along the way. Why should he have to do what everyone else does if he is better than everyone else? Think like a star, and you will be a star. That's the baseball lesson that has to be learned. It's more important than trying to hit a curve.
"Anybody bothers you," I said, "you just say, 'Kiss my butt.' "
It was slow going for a while, incorporating this attitude, but I have done a number of drills on this with the kids, and I think we are finally getting somewhere. How would they react if an umpire called them out on a close play at first? What would they say if the local radio station wanted to do an unpaid interview on Opening Day? What would they tell the mayor himself if he tousled their hair after an extra-inning win? The kids now have the right answer every time.
I think they are ready for the stumper.
"O.K., forget Barry Bonds," I say. "We are going to move to the American League. Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's was that league's Most Valuable Player in 1990. Isn't he great? Suppose you are Rickey and in 1989 you signed a contract that would pay you some $3 million per year through 1993.
Suppose salaries went out of whack after you signed and you didn't think you were making enough money. Suppose spring training rolled around. Suppose the A's expected you to be there for the start since you are such a big part of their team. What would you say to the A's?"
The kids go into a conference. I say I will give them a minute to determine their answer. I can see them arguing among themselves about what it should be. The clock ticks forward. Heads begin to nod.