Posts Tagged ‘Derek Jeter’

(Editor’s note: I received a lot of feedback from this column. From Minnesota to Arizona to Kansas, people told me of ways they would have handled the situation and of their desire to do something good. As a secondary note, I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since January.)

Christian Lopez is my hero. And he should be for anyone who craves the purity of sport or just the merits of doing the right thing.

If you don’t know who Lopez is, he is the 23-year-old cell phone salesman who wound up with Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit in his hands Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

There’s nothing special about that; it’s what he did with the ball that is. He gave it to Derek Jeter.

Just like that.

No strings attached.

It’s been estimated the ball holds a cash value of $100,000 to $250,000. Most people would have held the ball for ransom — cash, signed memorabilia, a kiss on the cheek from Jeter’s girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, or whatever it is that floats their boat.

Not Lopez.

During an in-game interview, Lopez revealed he asked for nothing. Lopez’s gesture touched the Steinbrenner family that they gave Lopez four tickets in the priciest seats for every remaining home game through the postseason.

He told reporters in what had to be a surreal post-game press conference that the ball — and the moment — belonged to Jeter.

Here is a 23-year-old kid, a year out of college who didn’t let greed blind him. He had no machinations of what any proposed bounty could do for him. Rather, he saw the situation for what it was.

Meanwhile, on sports talk radio Lopez was shredded by callers because he didn’t maximize the potential of the situation. To that I disagree. Lopez unknowingly took a stand. His good deed was paid forward.

Too often it’s all about me-me-me, or how my kid is the next great thing. Lost in the shuffle are the Christian Lopezes of the world.

If a stadium with more than 48,000 fans, and those who hear this story, learn to act selflessly when the world tells you otherwise, we’ll all be better.

What we should learn from Lopez doesn’t just apply to sports, but in life. Do some good and maybe some good will come back to you.

Fittingly, after Jeter, the second-largest ovation of the day was saved for Lopez.


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Yankees draft pick Cito Culver overcame tragedy to reach professional baseball. (Photo courtesy ESPN)

NORWICH, Conn. — It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe Chris “Cito” Culver would fit in among the dozens of players depicted in the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Polite and smiling, Culver can’t believe he is living out his dream of playing professional baseball. In town this weekend with the Staten Island Yankees, Culver is a modern day Moonlight Graham.

It was so important for him to begin his career that he signed his first contract days after being drafted, a far cry from many of his peers.

There’s a certain warmth that he draws from the diamond, but when the topic changes from the game to what his family experienced two years ago, a sadness permeates his eyes.

Looking down for a second, Culver looks forward as he joins his teammates in their pre-game warm-ups and says, “It’s what keeps me going.”

Life hasn’t always been roses for New York’s first-round selection in June’s draft.

In March 2008, he woke up to find his father, Christopher, Sr., attempting to burn down the family home with him and his estranged wife inside. The house burned down but Cito, his two younger sisters and mother made it out alive. His father pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, third-degree arson and first-degree criminal contempt, and is now serving a maximum nine-year sentence.

Fittingly, Culver says the biggest thing he’s learned over the first 42 games of his career is remaining positive.

“When you play every day, you’re going to have your good days and bad days, and you just have to learn to life with it, how to cope,” Culver said. “That’s something that’s big in this game because you’re not going to have a good day every day.”

When he’s on the field, however, the pain goes away.

Just a few days shy of his 18th birthday, Culver is as an unassuming baseball star in the making.

On the fourth pitch he sees in the batting cage, Culver slammed the offering high against the right field wall. There are no oohs and ahhs. Even with Yankees officials in attendance to watch their investment’s every move, Culver carries himself with the innocence of a child blissfully ignorant of the expectations placed at his feet.

From the moment the Yankees selected him, the switch-hitting shortstop has been anointed Derek Jeter’s heir apparent. The Yankees, he said, protect him from the pressure.

Growing up a Yankees fan in Rochester, N.Y., Culver even sounds like Jeter, his idol.

“It was really the highlight,” he said of being drafted by New York. “I’ve always wanted to be playing for the Yankees. It’s pretty much a dream come true for me.”

Staten Island’s hitting coach Ty Hawkins said Culver is still growing into the game.

“That’s one of the things, in the limited time of seeing him — his personality; he just seems like he really enjoys being here,” Hawkins said. “He doesn’t feel like he has to live up to any expectations. He just goes out and do what he can.”

Playing just his second game since being promoted to New York’s short-season team in Staten Island, N.Y., Culver hasn’t come down from the cloud he’s been on since June’s draft.

“It still doesn’t (seem real),” Culver said. “It still hasn’t sunk in. I just go out here playing every day. It’s really lost of fun.”

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NORWICH, Conn. — For more than a decade, Major League Baseball claimed it was waging a war against performance-enhancing drugs. Late last month it made a significant move to clean up the sport.

Baseball will begin blood testing non-40-man roster players in the minors for HGH, or human growth hormone. Major League Baseball does not need players’ consent to implement this random testing, because players in the minor leagues are not members of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

When the time comes for the union and MLB to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, blood testing is expected to be a contentious sticking point on both sides. But closer to home, those who are immediately affected — the Connecticut Tigers — support the testing.

“I don’t mind it, I think it’s a long time coming,” shortstop Ryan Soares said, adding there’s a sense of pride in being clean. “I think it’s a big step in the process of trying to clean the game up.”

The Tigers players who spoke on the topic said they have yet to be tested.

Players who test positive will receive a 50-game suspension, the same punishment levied for steroid use.

While testing in the minors for HGH is new, there has already been one suspension. Atlanta minor leaguer Jordan Schafer was suspended 50 games in 2008 after it was determined he purchased HGH.

A pitfall in the testing is the use of some nutritional supplements and medications, which give no advantage, leads to positive test results.

To combat this, players are advised to consult with their team trainer, who will let them know if a product is approved or not. On the major league level, there is a telephone hotline — in English and Spanish — players can use to make sure their purchases are in compliance.

The Detroit Tigers require their players to speak with the individual’s team trainer, strength and condition coach or the minor league strength coach in Lakeland, Fla., to gain approval. The latter makes the rounds, visiting affiliates to keep them abreast of policies regarding supplements, so that it’s never out of mind.

“That’s too bad,” Connecticut manager Howard Bushong said of the sometimes tricky supplement situation. “That’s why our whole organization has to be careful about them, the products that they purchase at a gym or a health food store. It may seem harmless — and it may be harmless. But if it’s against baseball’s rules, well then that’s the thing (that gets people into trouble).”

Not everyone is pleased with the testing. Don Catlin, a scientist who developed a urine test to detect HGH, said MLB’s method is flawed.

“The fact that it’s been around a few thousand tests and only one positive suggests either that there’s much less growth hormone being used than thought, which is doubtful, or the period of detectability is pretty short — a few hours,” Caitlin told The Associated Press. “It’s probably the latter.”

Other critics claim blood testing, because it can reveal more than the test’s intended purpose, is an invasion of privacy.

Even though the players association is reluctant to agree to testing because it doesn’t believe there is reliable, accurate testing, several players have come out in support of blood testing.

The likes of the Yankees’ Lance Berkman and Derek Jeter, as well as the Phillies’ Roy Oswalt, believe blood testing is a step in the right direction.

Their argument is if there isn’t anything to hide, why fight testing. The goal, after all, is to clean up the game.

It’s a sentiment echoed at Dodd Stadium.

“It’s good for me,” said Josh Ashenbrenner. “It’s good for the people who don’t use, because it gives us more of a chance (to succeed).”

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Jim Rice waited much longer than he should have to gain induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame. He didn’t waste any time making sure that many of his supporters wish they never got behind the surly slugger.

Speaking to a group of kids at the Little League World Series on Friday, Rice took aim on the state of baseball much in the way he did with pitchers during his heyday. But as most power hitters do, Rice missed a few. Most notably his assault on Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

Jim Rice should do less talking.

Jim Rice should do less talking.

Saying that the game isn’t as pure as it was when he played, Rice said Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Jeter were among the players giving the game a bad name because of high salaries, baggy pants, dreadlocks, etc. If given the chance, Rice might have accused the trio of breathing.

Let’s get a few things straight. He wants to point fingers at Ramirez and Rodriguez, go ahead. Both took performance enhancing substances and at the least, sullied the name of the game.

But Jeter?

This is what Jeter has done:
* .317 career average
* 2,699 hits heading into Saturday, the most by any shortstop in history
* four World Series titles
* 1,058 RBIs
* 10 All-Star appearances
* three Gold Gloves
* three Silver Sluggers
* 1996 Rookie of the Year

Jeters selfishness was on display when he dove head first into the crowd.

Jeter's selfishness was on display when he dove head first into the crowd.

While Rice’s career may have given pause to Hall of Fame voters, Jeter’s will not. The Yankees captain will eventually have more RBIs than Rice (1,451) but will likely trail in home runs.

So what’s Rice’s gripe with Jeter? Probably that Jeter has made more money than him and is widely considered a winner — even in Red Sox Nation. Maybe it’s none of that and it’s Jeter’s long line of models and celebrity girlfriends.

In casting stones at today’s players, Rice ignorantly forgot that rampant use of greenies, or amphetamines, was more common than steroids were in the 1990s even by the most conservative estimates. He also forgot that Pirates pitcher Doc Ellis admitted he threw a no-hitter against the Padres under the influence of LSD. But hey, the game was MUCH cleaner back then.

Rice said the game is filled with me-first players much like Reggie “The Straw the Stirs the Drink” Jackson, who was a contemporary of Rice.

In his opinion, of today’s players, Jim Thome, Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki are Hall of Fame material. Yes, that Ichiro, whose reputation as a great player is only equaled by his reputation as a jerk. Then again, Rice always liked the guys who would show their backside to the press. Ichiro had become a divisive element in Seattle’s clubhouse in recent years, demanding special treatment and a say in roster composition. This is the guy Rice believes our youth should look up to.

“What you see right now is more individuals, it’s not a team,” Rice told his audience in Williamsport, Penn. “Now you have guys coming in, they pick the days they want to play, they make big money.”

Jeter does make big money, but so did Rice when he played, comparatively speaking. But to suggest Jeter picks and chooses when he plays or is a me-first kind of guy, shows what a poor job NESN did in selecting Rice as an in-studio analyst. He simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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