NEW YORK — We’ve all heard this catchphrase, “The Stage is Set,” and the staff at the National Baseball Hall of Fame literally traveled to the St. Regis New York to prepare the dais for their annual press conference inside the ornate, grand ballroom of this historic, luxury hotel.
As the two newly minted electees slowly approached their very own “stage” and sat in their individual seats, 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame electee and N.Y. Yankees legend Derek Jeter blurted out, “Why is everybody so quiet?”
The entire media and invited guests erupted in laughter.
Those words would set another stage for the next 45 minutes of memorable stories from two extraordinary ballplayers who impacted the game at their respective position.
Larry Walker, who was born in Maple Ridge, Canada and although Jeter was born in New Jersey, his formidable years in Kalamazoo, Michigan would provide the benchmark of what was to eventually come to the Bronx in 1995 – literally 25 years ago.
Yet, BBWAA Secretary Jack O’Connell began the press conference with a somber reminder on the current state of America’s Pastime:
“There have been some rough days for baseball lately but this day annually centers on one of the most positive aspects of the game – the celebration of players careers that warrants the sports’ highest individual honor. When baseball becomes wounded, it always looks to Cooperstown.”
What occurred in Houston, Boston and even in Flushing, Queens, the National Pastime of this great country will always prevail. Players, coaches, and even managers need to be reminded that integrity is important in all walks of life – even on a baseball diamond.
From what I observed, Larry Walker, whose congenial demeanor reminded me of a “Golly Gee” ballplayer from Field of Dreams, lived the dream of becoming a professional athlete. Although he admitted, he didn’t play baseball in high school, he stated how “much of my success was watching other players.”
And boy, did he watch, learn and finally attain the ultimate honor and answered “The Call” that he was voted into the hallowed halls in Cooperstown.
Although he played for three teams (Expos, Rockies and Cardinals), his impact in becoming a NL MVP, five-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, three-time batting champion and three-time Silver Slugger Award recipient made his decision rather easy to wear a Colorado Rockies cap on his bronze plaque.
Jeter, who played 20 years for one team in the Bronx (1995-2014), made his eventual transition to being named “The Captain” a seamless one. His extraordinary style of play (especially in the post-season), will invite inquiring “Yankee Haters” to check out his stats on Baseball-Reference.com.
There’s a reason why Jeter garnered 99.7 percent of the vote. And when asked to respond on what he would say to the lone writer who didn’t vote for him, Jeter quickly replied how appreciative he was to those who cast their lone ballot in his favor.
Today, baseball desperately needed this press conference to highlight the greats of this beloved sport. And for the child who lives in New Jersey, Michigan, Canada and even in the Bronx, who dreams of one day becoming the next Walker or Jeter, all they need to do is watch, learn, play and maybe…just maybe there will be a bronze plaque adorned with their name in Cooperstown, New York.
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