A Moment of Majesty: The Michael Young Retirement Ceremony
Much to the dismay of many, baseball is changing.
Gone are the days where anecdotes and plain vision are the story-telling tools of choice. They’re still employed, but they’re no longer the only thing in the toolbox. We now have ways to quantify almost everything. From Statcast removing the mystery of Roy Hobbsian home runs to a bevy of new stats giving us clearer pictures of just how good or not players are, the game done changed.
Saturday reminded everyone that, despite this move to certitude, there remains a special place in baseball for the human story.
Saturday, I stood on the field watching Michael Young‘s induction into the Rangers Hall of Fame. Here’s my vantage point, which is important to the story.
Any closer and Chuck Morgan would be saying my name over the loudspeaker (a personal dream of mine).
I don’t remember every detail about the ceremony. The best line of the night was Jon Daniels citing, of all players, Lisalverto Bonilla, which seemed like an insult to Josh Lindblom. While potentially dangerous, seeing Young’s life flash before his eyes as unexpected fireworks danced around him was simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. There was the odd sequencing of having Jeff Russell introduced ahead of Pudge Rodriguez, despite the introduction order being chronological based on HOF entry date. Make of that what you will.
The actual nuts and bolts of the ceremony weren’t important. What matters, was that for a half hour, legends from every era came together on a single metaphorical stage. Cross-generational talents, all with their own fabric in the patchwork quilt that is the history of the Texas Rangers.
Then you factor in the 47,125 fans in the park. Sure it was bobblehead day, but the place sold out to send off their hero one last time. They radiated an undeniable and contagious energy. Their cheers, their warmth, their love for this man and what he did for the team they love was unassailable.
As Young arrived in a shining Chevy pickup, the cheers were deafening. If you closed your eyes, the sound mirrored a post Appetite for Destruction Guns N Roses show, or a World Series clinching victory. All these people making noise, expressing the joy and happiness they felt in their hearts. They couldn’t all go shake his hand, give him or hug, or say thank you individually.
So they told him the only way they could.
They cheered their hearts out, hoping Michael would understand that language.
He did. The language of admiration and adoration is universal.
Above that though, these moments make baseball great.
Whenever someone tells you baseball isn’t great, they expose themselves as uninformed liars. Yes, the games are long. Yes, it doesn’t contain the action that our more attention starved citizens of all ages desire from sports in these modern Twitter times.
Baseball is the ultimate story sport. No other sport allows for the individualized narrative to form. Baseball forces their players onto islands by design, both in the batter’s box and on the mound. For better or worse, these player’s stories are written after constant exposure in the solo spotlight. Those narratives possess flaws like any other, but the one on one nature of the game gives players the chance to write their own tale.
That’s just performance wise. Being able to see the faces of these players, watching them convey their emotions without being behind a face mask is crucial to this endeavor. The glee when they hit a home run, the frustration when they boot a ground ball, all that unadulterated emotion has nowhere to hide. That’s an asset for players. We don’t have to wonder how they feel. We can see it written on their face.
That’s just at the major league level though. The struggle before they arrive in The Show helps weave their tale. Knowing that most players have bused double digit hours at a time, to play in lackluster facilities, in front of no people is something that both endears and enrages depending on who you ask. Regardless, the American narrative loves when people overcome bad to experience the good. It embodies the hard work ideal, achieving your dreams with elbow grease and passion. It builds character in people’s minds. Our class warfare culture loves the grinder, the unexpected hero. The minor leagues allow for that to fester.
Even putting the game aside, its pace allows for people to enjoy more than the game itself. Conversing with your friends or family, using the game as a bonding experience. The pace gives you the chance to connect in a way the high voltage sports don’t offer. You catch up, tell stories, share the experience of human connection. The sport is a European lunch, long and focused on enjoyment, as opposed to McDonalds’ scarfed down in a car that other sports represent.
Baseball is a talking sport someone once said. They never said you only had to talk about baseball.
Sometimes you don’t even have to talk.
Sometimes you just have to make a lot of noise and your point comes across.
Which brings us back to Saturday.
Standing in a stadium, with one man at the center receiving the adulation of 47,125 people of all ages and backgrounds. All their memories forming a single story, colliding in a beautiful symphony of one glowing moment in time.
That’s the beauty of humanity.
The beauty of the game.
Yes, this game is becoming more advanced. Yes, we’re all better off for it, no matter what people who are too stupid to adapt say. Baseball is growing, improving, even if the road to perfection is long and winding.
But for thirty minutes, we saw the thing that baseball has perfected.
The stories. The moments. The coming together for a common love.
The story of Michael Young came to a close on Saturday, in glorious fashion. As the embers faded, they gave us a reminder that might wasn’t needed but is always welcome.
Stories are important, so are people.
Baseball gives you both.
That’s why it’s the best.