For the love of the game . . .

David Freese, Nyjer Morgan, Nelson Cruz, Alexi Casilla, Aaron Boone, David Ortiz, Luis Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria, Joe Carter, Francisco Cabrera, Kirby Puckett, and Gene Larkin.  What do they all have in common?  All Hall-of-Famers?  No.  In fact, there’s only one HOFer on the list, unless a couple of these guys have much more impressive careers ahead of them than they’ve demonstrated thus far.  Were they all All-Stars?  Nope.  Some have never even come close.  So, what is this strange list?

This list is what I like to call the “anyone-can-be-a-hero” list.  Since 1991, these are some of the names (probably not all of them) of the guys that have had game-winning hits on the biggest stages of the game – the playoffs.  Many were in the World Series.  Some were in games that sent their team on to the next level of the postseason.  All were dramatic.  Every one of these guys stepped up to the plate knowing that he had a chance to do something special.

And, this is yet another reason I love this game.  Unless you’re a baseball fanatic, you’re not likely to remember David Freese 10 years from now.  You may have never even heard the names of Casilla or Cabrera or Larkin.  These aren’t guys that are perennial all-stars, or are receiving a lot of accolades.  But, they proved to be the hero at the right time.  For some of them, it was the defining moment of their career.  This isn’t something you get in other sports.

Think about it – in basketball, you put the ball in the hands of your best player, and ask him to carry the team to a win.  In football, if you need a game-winning drive, it’s up to your quarterback to get you there.  But, in baseball, you never know which player might step up to the plate with the game on the line.  You never know who is going to have the chance to be the hero.  If you go through the history books, you’ll see all different kinds of players that have had that special moment.  Everyone from Hall of Famers all the way down to the guy that may have only lasted a couple seasons in the majors.  And, many times you’ll see a guy get a second chance to be the hero after having been the goat just an inning before!

What a great game it is!

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