Fighting for Third
Home. It’s one of those words which the meaning is so much bigger than the word itself. So many cliches have been written to describe “home”. “Home is where the heart is.” “Home is where you hang your hat.” At its simplest, home is the place we belong. It’s the place we are supposed to be, surrounded by those who love us most. We may live our lives day to day, but it’s where everything starts and everything ends.
I’m sure there are many legends surrounding how the plate got its name “home”. I remember reading a story as a child about some kids creating this game in Brooklyn and actually used a plate from the mother’s kitchen. Of course, this is untrue, but the term “home” is a curious name for the game’s ultimate goal.
And while every player on the field wants to be home at some point during the game, there’s one man who is literally fighting for his life to stay at 3rd.
Rangers third base coach TONY BEASLEY was hired in November of 2014, basically hand picked from the Nationals by Jeff Banister. The team had recently adopted the slogan “Never Ever Quit”, which sadly became a self-fulfilling prophecy as the organization dealt with obstacle after obstacle. Under the #NeverEverQuit banner, the scrappy Rangers fought through injuries and other setbacks to stay relevant throughout the season and make a run at the division. The wild ride ended in Toronto just one win away from making a third appearance in five years in the AL Championship Series, as the Rangers’ banged up pitching staff and atypically sloppy defense succumbed to Canadian lumber. But nobody gave last year’s team a chance. The Rangers were once again projected to be a .500 team with a wild card being a pipe dream. And they rose above it all with Beasley just outside the foul line waving everybody home.
For persons of faith, “home” is a deeper metaphor. Many folks believe in a hereafter-something beyond this life that represents to them an eternal reward for a life well-lived. The folks with the strongest faith seem to believe this most passionately. Beasley would tell you he’s one of these people. He’s been adamant that he is clinging to faith in the midst of his hardship and that a job on the baseball field is good therapy. He’s committed to keeping his job with the Rangers even while the club is making other arrangements in the event that his treatments prevent him from carrying out his on-field duties.
So while #NeverEverQuit may mean replacing a pitcher after a freak accident involving a dog and a flight of stairs, or calling up your prospects before they’re ready, or expecting more from your .250 hitters when your big bats find themselves on the downside of the numbers, I can guarantee you, it means even more for Tony Beasley.
2015 was a dream for Rangers fans, but it could have been even better. While the team was never 100% healthy, they still lost their focus and seemingly had a meltdown, dropping three in a row to the Jays in the ALDS after going up 2-0. And as that chip on their shoulder gets bigger and bigger, with so many things to set right, don’t think for a second they’re not inspired to have coach Beasley grinding it out every day in the midst of physical hardship.
Cancer is nasty. It’s unimaginable, no matter what kind it is. Even when it’s “early stages” or “treatable”, it’s the kind of enemy that makes a hot headed, bat-flipping baseball player seem not so bad. It’s the kind of enemy that can send a person “home” whether he’s ready or not. I can guarantee you, Coach Beasley is prepared to go, but he’s not ready. He still has work to do, not just in his personal life, but on the baseball field. And the team around him knows it.
So if you’re bummed about JOSH HAMILTON‘s knee or even his performance if he is healthy; if you’re not sure about IAN DESMOND playing left field; if you’re not sure DeLINO DESHIELDS can overcome the sophomore curse and be even better than last year; if you’re not sure about YU DARVISH‘s health despite reports he’s right on target; be sure about this: this is a team that knows how to fight. And the biggest fighter of them all is fighting to stay on third base.