Friday, September 02, 2005

Meeting Rickey Henderson

Joe, Grace and I went over to Blair Field today. After buying the tickets to the Golden Baseball League's first post-season game between the Chico Outlaws and the San Diego Surf Dawgs, just after pulling out of the parking lot, I saw something in the middle of the road. When Joe pulled up, it was my first souvenir of the trip: a ball that someone had hit out of the park during practice. This was a good omen. This game was off to a good start.

A plan began to develop in my mind. What if I could get Rickey Henderson, former Oakland Athletic and Toronto Blue Jay, two time winner of the World Series and future hall of famer, to sign the ball? He plays for the Surf Dawgs. If I could get him to sign the ball, it would surely cap off the trip. So when we returned to the park before the game began, I went down near the Surf Dawgs dugout. As Rickey finished his warm-up I called out to him with the ball in my hand.

"Rickey, can I get an autograph?"

He ignored me.

"Rickey, autograph?"

He looked over.

I held out the ball and pen.

"After the game," Rickey said.

So I went back to my seat. I had a suspicion that he was brushing me off, and that after the game he would disappear, and I wouldn't get my signature. I resigned myself to this.

So Joe and I enjoyed the game, for what it was. Not many fans, and about the kind of talent you expect from an independent minor league game. It was cool to see Rickey hit a long double and a home run, though.

After the game I went down to my spot near the dugout. There were a few of us there hoping for autographs, but Rickey walked right by us all. I watched him step into the dugout, and when I thought all hope was lost, I looked away.

"I guess no autographs today," I said to the man who had caught Rickey's home run ball. He was hoping for a signature too. We were both disappointed.

We all waited for a minute. While I was looking out into center field, away from the dugout, the man with the home run ball said, "No."

"He's gonna sign yours."

I looked into the dugout, where Rickey was talking with his manager. Rickey pointed at me, telling me not to go anywhere.

After a minute he came over, signed my baseball, and posed for a picture.

Rickey Henderson is a man of his word. He said he would sign for me, and he did. He ended up signing for everyone else, too, though I don't think he felt like getting all that attention that day.

It's funny how things work out. I went to Southern California hoping to see the A's beat the Angels. But that didn't happen. What did happen, what wasn't planned or hoped for, turned out to be the best part of the trip: meeting the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of Major League Baseball, and getting his autograph.

I think I can go home happy.



Blogger Charlotte said...

I am officially kelly green with envy.

Monday, September 05, 2005 4:11:00 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

What a fun baseball vacation -- great job writing it! I enjoyed sharing it vicariously :).

Monday, September 05, 2005 8:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

I hope that I haven’t left you wondering about the outcome of the Golden Baseball League championship, Preston, but your new friend, Rickey Henderson, went out a winner. His team, the San Diego Surf Dawgs, won the inaugural GBL championship. They defeated the Chico Outlaws, 2-1, in a semi-final on Sunday. Later that day they beat the Mesa Miners 9-6. Because they had lost a game on Saturday, they had to win two on Sunday to take the title.

We saw Henderson hit a home run on Friday, in the first game of the playoffs, and it turns out that that may have been his last home run as a professional ballplayer. He went hitless on Saturday, I think, then had a double and a walk on Sunday. Rumor has it that he will now retire.

On Tuesday, Grace and I drove over to Blair Field, to see if there were any stray baseballs left in the streets outside the stadium, or if the league was trying to move merchandise at cut-rate prices. But, no luck. The little, friendly stadium was sadly quiet.

No news yet about next season, but the end-of-season round-up in the Long Beach newspaper portrayed the season as a success. So, maybe you should pencil into your calendar another trip next summer!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 8:18:00 PM  

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