Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I often talk about people who have worked hard, put in their time effortlessly and moved on either to a new path or retired to begin an unwritten chapter.  This past week, a lifetime Yankee fan retired from our staff at Rider University.  He gave a speech about wearing the three different hats in his life with his last hat representing the team of individuals with whom he worked for 42 years.  He spoke eloquently about the importance of the team, not the just individual.  Although he is the individual that is moving on and is accepting the honor of retiree and esteemed leader, he did not get to this point of his life without the contribution of many "who took care of me along the way."  It was humbling to hear his speech and it got me thinking about how in baseball and other sports for that matter, we often lose sight of the team and focus on individual performance.

Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” is a traveling Smithsonian Institution museum, which celebrates how sports captures the American experience through its cultural benefits for small towns across the nation. Sports come with their challenges and accomplishments and truly shape the towns where teams play.

The exhibit is on display at the Howell Living History Farm near Trenton, NJ until June 22nd.  The theme of the traveling museum is how sports teams affect not only the community but the individual players themselves; teamwork exceeds the individual.  “Simply recognizing the person who scores a goal or hits the home run lessens the impact of the teams around them, from players and coaches to trainers and supporters,” stated Pete Watson farm director as written in an article in NJ.com last week.  “It gives dimension to each sport,” he said. “Even though individual performance is the statistic by which we measure success, when you look at the multitude of factors behind that statistic, the result is always due to teamwork.”

After reading this article I reflected on its meaning for us, as Yankee fans who are so infatuated by superstar individuals like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira and Mashahiro Tanaka.  I am guilty of being one of those fans too, but I am stopped in my tracks when I consider how important the team is, the guys collectively who need to lead a team to victory.  I see newbies like John Ryan Murphy, Yangervis Solarte, David Phelps, Dellin Betances and now Chase Whitley who are pushing for wins, fighting for a spot on a team with amazing veterans and future hall of famers.  I see the raw emotion on guys when they see someone hit their first single, throw a key strike and make a diving catch ending an inning.

I remember one of my favorites, Ron Guidry, throw that last strike and fly off the mound with such adrenaline.  The Yankee team used to ask Guidry, “how many runs you need today, Gator?”  And he would answer humbly, “two or three should do it.”  I love the idea of the sacrifice bunt or fly ball deep to left to get in the run or move the guy into scoring position.  How about guys that just make the clubhouse stronger, more powerful just by being there; their mere presence inspires a whole team to win.  What about the guys who clean the clubhouse, or launder the uniforms?  Or how about the trainers, bat boys, travel managers, coaches, staff and assistants?  Let’s not forget street vendors, bleacher creatures and fans from all walks of life.  They all contribute to the team in intricate ways, sometimes invisibly and quietly.

The community of baseball is deep and far reaching.  Individuals are just people and without fan support and the support of their community of ball players, coaches, and other important people, they cannot be successful.  As Helen Keller so sophisticatedly said many years ago, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  These words are something to ponder this week as we battle the Cubs and White Sox in the Windy City.  We can’t get down on individuals; instead we have to continue to root for the team.  After all, it’s all about the team anyway.

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Opinion Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof

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