when the slow road finally leads to the bigtime...
he hasn't gotten an at bat yet (although he did get into the game last night, getting only as far as the on deck circle before being pulled in a chess move between managers, pitchers, and batters...); but dodger minor league first baseman john lindsey has finally been called up to the majors. i've been following this story for about a week or so, since espn starting talking about him here and then his call-up here.
on the surface, this seems perhaps not a big deal. usually around this time of year, when a team starts tanking (as the dodgers have...), some of the better younger players in triple A get called up to fill in for veteran players who have logged over a hundred games and need a few games off. it is also a time for the organization to audition players who have done well in the minors, to see if they can handle big league pressure.
what is amazing about john lindsey, is that at 33 years old is hardly a youngster - particularly in baseball years - and he's been playing in the minor leagues for 15 years... yes, that's nearly half his life. lindsey has played more seasons in the minor leagues than any active player in the majors without at least one trip to the majors. at age 33, lindsey is the dodger's oldest minor league player to make his major league debut since 1954. he's always been a pretty good hitter, but this year he also won the triple A batting title.
there are so many amazing things about his story, but what i find incredible is the patience and fortitude lindsey has carried with him. he as never given up on his dream, and remarkably he seems to be lacking the "i'm entitled" and "i'm bitter" genes.
at 33 he is already a "middle aged" ballplayer; and in artist years, his call-up to the bigs at 33 would be like having your first exhibition at age 70 (or as someone recently said to me at an opening: "dude, how much longer are you going to be an emerging artist...").
to continue the comparison to the art world, there has certainly been a glut of younger players moving into the majors before they are ready, mainly because of a "buzz" that surrounds them; and similarly, many of these players are brought up too quickly, their careers are short, and they disappear along with their promise. as much as ability and talent does mean something in sports, the system's need for spectacle, sexiness, and "a spin" is certainly on par with the artworld - and every other facet of popular culture.
fortunately for us, and perhaps for lindsey, his story finally became hard to ignore (or at least after all these years, the press has finally helped the team to find a way to make the situation "news"). lindsey is a blue collar guy who works his ass off. he has never - to my knowledge - publicly griped about his situation, in fact he generally considers himself lucky because he is doing what he wants to do - play baseball. it's great to see that, finally, the press and the fans have gotten behind him - so while he has been a known entity amongst the farm system and the upper-brass powers at be, he is hopefully on his way to having his lee bontecue moment.
last night, while the dodger's were losing, manager joe torre put lindsey into the line-up as a pinch hitter. as lindsey was standing in the on deck circle, swinging the bat with a largest smile in the world, i would imagine a ton of people were smiling in there homes, thinking "finally" - and then suddenly torre pulled lindsey back, and brought in another hitter. i can't imagine the anticipation and disappointment hitting one more small bump in the road, particularly for someone who has been "close" so many times.
it seems this weekend, when the dodgers are in houston, lindsey will finally start a game, hopefully playing first base and getting several big league at bats. his family lives in mississippi, and houston is as close as the team will get as the season fades. i believe that is the real reason he was pulled last from last night's game before batting - as in houston he'll have his first major league at bat in front of his son, his wife, and his parents. (and yes, i can be incredibly sentimental about this stuff!)
so, i'm rooting for the guy for many reasons. for the most part he seems like a decent human being who has worked his ass off because he still believes he can achieve something if given the opportunity - and he seems to have his own ideas of success, that are defined and determined whithin himself. it reminds me of the artist dreamers whom have i have always held the most esteem for, who continue to make work, and continue to believe in the value of making work, while being mostly invisible within the mainstream museum, gallery and magazine worlds.
i don't know a lot of folks who have worked as hard as john lindsey without getting a break, who have not given up and moved on to something else. most of us rarely get to the door we are searching for - much less given an opportunity to open it... so i'm hoping, if nothing else, in the next few games lindsey gets his shot. i will most certainly be watching, and i will also be rooting for him...