One day, in the not-too-distant future, nobody will visit
With all three members of the New York Mets at the absolute nadir of their career trajectories, it is, literally, only a matter of time before the million-dollar paychecks cease and the appearance requests dry up and fade away. When that happens -- when Castillo, Perez and Beltran are agent-less and begging to wave to patrons alongside
For the record, it's not the gift of money, or fame, or a bottomless tub of sunflower seeds, or being able to play baseball before millions of fans.
No, it's the gift of impacting people.
And it's priceless.
For some strange reason that I've never fully understood, we ordinary folk look toward the famous for inspiration. We want to touch them. To see them. To talk with them about "that game" or "that show" or "that concert." More than anything, we want them to touch us, for their fame and success to somehow provide a blinding light to guide our own lives. That's why, before every major league game, kids and adults can be found leaning over the dugouts, begging for a ballplayer's attention. That's why companies ranging from Nike to Pepsi to Go Daddy hire athletes as pitchmen.
That's why, on Tuesday, the New York Mets scheduled a team visit to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Are baseball players truly worthy of the adulation they receive? Not usually. But to the injured troops stationed at Walter Reed -- men and women who sacrificed so much for their country and now find themselves facing uncertain futures -- a visit from a major leaguer is a big deal.
Hence, the entire Mets roster made the trip --
Throughout America's professional sports leagues, hundreds of athletes use their celebrity on behalf of righteousness. Whether it's Angels outfielder
Yet when I hear about dolts like Castillo, Perez and Beltran, I am reminded how many jocks seem to lose themselves in a sea of self-importance. It's about shaking a kid's hand when he extends it (as opposed to walking away, head down). It's about saying "Thank you" when a fan shouts, "Good luck!" It's about playing hard even when the team is 17 games out, because someone out there just plunked down $40 on a ticket.
In this case, it's about remembering who's the hero, and who should be honored by the chance to recognize one.
It's about being decent.