Wednesday, May 30, 2012
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
Age. It is one thing athletes fear. They peak at a young age...usually. It is when they are their fastest, healthiest, and strongest. Or, is it? Some of the best athletes to ever pick up a ball, swing a bat, or compete were (I hate to say it)... old. You have Brett Favre, born in 1969. Need I say more? Went into retirement, came out of retirement, started games, won games, retired. He holds the record of most consecutive starts by any NFL player with 297 and one of six quarterbacks to start over 100 consecutive games. Next you have Dara Torres, born in 1967. She competed in five Summer Olympics, earning 12 medals and at least one at each game. She plans on competing this summer in London for her 6th appearance in the Olympics. The last legend I am going to talk about is one who I got to experience first hand, Hideki Matsui. He took Durham, North Carolina or better yet, the Durham Bulls Ballpark Corner Store by typhoon. Matsui is a Japanese God. I am trying to think of an American analogy and can't. Matsui is to Japan as teenage girls are to Justin Bieber? Not even close.
Hideki Matsui was born in 1974. Almost twice the age of some Major Leaguers today. But age doesn't phase him, and doesn't phase his fans. His time spent in Durham was short, but chaotic. Over 200 members of the Japanese media were at the tiny stadium in Durham just to see Matsui play, and witness his "comeback." They were stalking his every move. Almost like paparazzi. I am pretty sure my coworkers and I were on Japanese television. So many cameras.
Things around the ballpark got hectic when Dice-K was scheduled to make a rehab start in Durham. Matsui was in the line-up. The two best baseball players to come out of Japan were meeting on a stage in downtown Durham. Nights like that don't come around too often. And boy, its nights like that you love the game of baseball.
I had the pleasure of meeting Japanese families who came to the ballpark just to see Matsui. One man I met was the principal of a Japanese school in Raleigh. I had no idea we had Japanese schools in America. He was telling me how excited the school was to all come together to a game this Saturday. I said, "This Saturday?" and he responded, "Yes. In Japan, we have school on Saturdays so we are taking the whole school, 250 students, to the game." I was amazed. Even though Matsui is a respected veteran in the game of baseball, young adults are avid fans. I personalized two Matsui jerseys for the principal, and those were only two of countless t-shirts and jersey's during Matsui Mania.
Matsui got called up to the Rays yesterday and was scheduled to make his debut tonight versus the Chicago White Sox. In story book fashion, Matsui hit a two-run homer at his second at bat. Even though the Rays lost the game, 7-2, Matsui received a standing ovation. His time in Japan, with the Yankees and even in Durham is just the beginning. Much like Favre and Torres. Their books haven't closed.
Trends fade. Teams have rebuilding years. Athletes retire. Devoted fans are forever, and age is just a number.
Be sure to check out the Durham Bulls Ballpark Corner store for everything Durham Bulls! Follow us on Twitter @dbullsteamstore or check out the shop: http://durhambulls.milbstore.com/store.cfm?store_id=133
*personalized Matsui jersey by yours truely