A trip five years in the making is now behind me. It was wonderful, exciting and even inspiring in many ways, although I certainly learned much and will change many things when I undertake the journey again.
I took my family to a place that is almost holy in my eyes…Cooperstown, New York and the Baseball Hall of Fame. I am, perhaps, deliberately overstating the reverence I hold it in, but not by much. Baseball is as close to religion as anything in my life. I could take Crash Davis’ “I believe” speech and change only a few words and have it match with many things I hold to be true. I am a worshipper of the Church of Baseball, although my method of worship is quite different from Annie Savoy’s.
It was not a random trip. We went for the occasion of the induction into the Hall of Tony Gwynn. Gwynn is an icon of my youth. I have followed the San Diego Padres since the moment I became aware of the game, and I certainly have been part of the Friar Faithful since their inception as a major league team. Tony Gwynn personifies the team. He is Mr. Padre. He is a link to some of my most treasured memories and to some of my most exhilarating moments that do not involve sex.
To actually be present for the moment, when a part of my childhood and a man I have always admired become an acknowledged part of the lore and magic of this game I played and love, was thrilling. To be there for the concurrent induction of another man whom I admire, Cal Ripken Jr., was a most fortunate bonus.
We will not see this happen again. Tony and Cal were both men who were as bright and brilliant off the field as they were upon it. They both played their entire careers, two decades each, in a single uniform. Although both gifted with ability, they both had to work hard to maintain and magnify the advantage it gave them so that they could keep their place in the game, let alone excel at it. They both accepted and enthusiastically pursued their place as role models.
I will return in a few years, to see Trevor Hoffman inducted. He accepted the torch that Tony passed and has a similar attitude, having passed up chances to make more money elsewhere and having worked hard to excel at his craft. When I do, I’ll book a room earlier so I can be closer. I’ll be more aware of the other things to do in town. I’ll have a smoother and less stressful trip.
But it won’t have the same thrill. To see the history in front of me for the first time. To see a ticket from the 1919 World Series. To see the bat Babe Ruth used to hit his called shot. The glove Willie Mays wore when he made “the catch.” These moments can not be repeated.
It was the most expensive and intensive trip I have ever undertaken. And it was worth every cent and moment spent planning. I’m emotionally exhausted, and smiling through it all. I will be happy to see home, to sleep in my own bed, to pet my cat. I make my way home knowing I will return.