February 24, 2007
If life begins at 40 then outside of the San Francisco Giants who have Barry Bonds, Steve Finley, Omar Visquel and Ray Durham are close approaching it then the METS have almost cornered the same "On Golden Pond" market.
WIth "El Duque" Orlando Hernandez who is thought to be 40 or beyond depending on which birth certificate you choose to believe, Julio Franco, the ageless wonder/pinch-hitter/part-time player extraordinare who will be 49 at the end of this baseball season (or older also depending on the validity of his birth certificate), Moises Alou, formerly of the Giants who will be 41 in July and now catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. at 40 looking for his final hurrah before he retires the METS have some of the oldest players in the game.
Clearly even though the METS have some of the better young players in the game like Jose Reyes and David Wright they definitely believe that experience does matter. While I am always in favor of bringing up or acquiring young talent that is poised, mature, talented and eager to step on to the major league scene I also don’t mind having a few graybeards on my squad as well to balance things out. Not only are most of these 40 and beyond players blessed with the talent levels at their advanced baseball ages to play effectively and last this long whether they are starting or coming off the bench in my opinion (outside of perhaps Barry Bonds) they are great role models. And I don’t mean just great role models for kids who watch and play the game some of whom aspire to be major league players themselves one day but to young and middle-age adults as well.
These players not only have talent but they are clear examples of what hard work, diligence to one’s craft, savvy and intelligence can do for someone who wants to succeed at the highest levels. They also are playing a huge role in destroying the myth or myths that once you are in mid to late 30’s as an athlete you are automatically through. What players like Franco, Hernandez, Alou and others clearly demonstrate is as in the title of the song that the singer Aliyah sang before her life was suddenly and tragically ended in a plane crash is "Age is nothing but a number."
These older athletes also demonstrate to many of us how to enjoy our lives and how to do things the right way. That is with class, dignity and respect. Case in point when METS fans started the 2006 season jumping on Carlos Beltran’s case when he had a somewhat rough start early last year at SHEA who was there to tell him to take a curtain call when the boos turned to cheers after Beltran blasted a memorable early season homerun when he really didn’t want to? Why of course it was the elder statesman of the METS: It was Julio Franco. Sure he knew Beltran was clearly irritated with the fans and probably wanted to tell them to what they could do with their sudden applause, standing ovation and outpouring of approval.
But Franco refused to let him do it. He stayed after him where everyone could see it in the dugout and on television until he finally compelled him to take that curtain call and let bygones be bygones. To me that’s a leader, a terrific older player and a great role model! Bravo, Julio!
It’s easy when we watch athletes in major league sports do the all the wrong things like breaking the law or seemingly every conceivable law, getting caught with illegal drugs, taking drugs or taking all sorts of enhancing performing drugs to dismiss the majority of them as being the overpaid, pampered dregs of society that life seems to always smile on because they were fortunate enough to play kids games and get paid exorbitant sums of money well after they were kids. But while we are doing this which I believe that we have the right to do as sports fans we also need to look at the positive side of the professional athletes who are demonstrating that most good things are attainable and possible. That means no matter what your choice of professional endeavor may be as long as you have your health and faculties you can achieve success at any age even when most people think you can’t do it any longer. These atheletes are living proof that with a positive attitude, hard work that all of us are capable of the same.
That’s all for now from the FAN FOR LIFE! (a.k.a. Steve Ferguson)
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