By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Whether obvious or hidden from view, everyone possesses special talents. They can be born skills or ones acquired through dogged determination. Some get parlayed into rewarding careers; others might be just a hobby; still others are something we break out when needed or on whim to get a few laughs or break the ice. Whatever the case may be, it’s our thing - or things. It’s what we do a little…or a lot…better than most people.
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Washington Nationals pitcher Trevor Rosenthal are really good at baseball. Davis has a total of 283 career homeruns and twice led the majors in dingers. Rosenthal, a flame-throwing reliever, has had seasons of 45 and 48 saves, respectively. Both are former all stars. Both have received votes for the MVP award.
But both started the 2019 MLB season as if they had lost all ability to play the game. Davis, going back to last September, was mired in record-setting 0 for 54 slump. Meanwhile, Rosenthal was a disaster. In four appearances between March 30 and April 7, he gave up four hits, four walks, seven runs and retired exactly zero batters.
They were the batter that couldn’t get a hit and the pitcher who couldn’t record an out. These once dominant baseball forces were Superman with a pocket full of kryptonite, Batman with his broken back (courtesy of Bane), Iron Man without his suit and Dr. Bruce Banner with an inability to get angry and turn green. In other words, Davis and Rosenthal had lost their superpower - baseball.
Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” President Barack Obama, during his own time of struggle, concluded, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.” Adding to those bold demands for perseverance, is this timeless optimism from Dr. Seuss: “When you think things are bad, when you feel sour and blue, when you start to get mad…you should do what I do. Just tell yourself Duckie, you’re really quite lucky! Some people are much more…oh, ever so much more…oh, muchly, much-much more unlucky than you!”
It’s doubtful that Davis or Rosenthal ever thought they were going through hell. But they did get up and play and probably at least attempted Dr. Seuss’s recommended optimism. Rosenthal eventually got an out – three, in fact – on April 10 to lower his season ERA from “INF” (for infinity) to an at least calculable, if atrocious, 72.00! Davis eventually got a hit too – three, to match Rosenthal’s outs – on April 13 to finally register a “puncher’s chance” batting average of .079!
I kid because I legitimately care. Davis has probably been hitting prodigious bombs his entire life. Likewise, Rosenthal’s probably been throwing smoke and making batters look foolish (he’s recorded 436 strikeouts in just 326 total innings pitched) since he first took a little league mound. Now they suddenly couldn’t do the most basic things demanded by their craft – get hits and outs. The two baseball gods were mere mortals.
The opportunity to observe competitive greatness - unimaginable levels of performance - is a major allure of sports. But to see the greats struggle, grind and, ultimately and hopefully, author a comeback story, transcends sports. It’s a more basic human fascination because it’s a more familiar human condition. We can’t relate to hitting 54 homeruns or saving 48 games in a MLB season, like Davis or Rosenthal have, but everyone has figuratively been unable to get a hit or an out at some point in their lives (even in aspects where we fancy ourselves rather skilled). It’s the reason the dominant reaction to Tiger Woods’s unbelievable win at The Master’s last weekend was some combination of joy and awe. Tiger’s a complicated person; nevertheless, his personal and professional struggles are very real. He pushed through and completed the ultimate professional comeback. Davis and Rosenthal are trying to do the same. And it’s likely all baseball fans are rooting for them, if only because at some point we are all lost, grinding and searching for redemption.
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