World Series managers, ceremonial pitches and patriotic performances

By Bill Barrows

This year’s World Series has a couple of interesting storylines starting with the two team managers.

Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and A.J. Hinch of the Houston Astros were both big league players who were best known as role players, not stars. Both were good journeyman players who adapted and knew their role with the team. Roberts played for five major league teams and Hinch four. Hinch was a very intelligent catcher who used  brains to gain advantages behind the plate. Roberts was a speedy outfielder whose claim to fame up to now was stealing 2nd base in Game 4 of the ALCS that provided the spark for the rally in the 2004 Boston Red Sox run to their first World Championship since 1918.

Both of these guys have used their people skills and intelligence to become tops in their fields. Hinch is a Stanford grad, Roberts a UCLA alum. They have played against each other since college. Played and coached together while with the San Diego Padres, where they became fast friends. Both bought into Sabermetics and mixed that with traditional game strategies to quickly put teams together that could be competitive quickly. Along the way, they have become very close friends. Their families have vacationed together, in fact at this year’s All-Star Game in Miami, they were together and even talked half-jokingly about managing against each other in the World Series.

Roberts was hired by the Dodgers before the 2016 season and Hinch by Houston before the 2015 season. When Roberts was offered the Dodgers job, he first consulted with Hinch about the situation. They speak with reverence about each other. Both lead powerhouse teams in this World Series between two teams who are the first to both have won 100-plus games in a season since the Orioles and Reds did it in 1970. I noticed that at the beginning of each game thus far, just before the first pitch, they subtly salute each other in a way that shows not only sportsmanship, but a respect for each other that goes a long way in these times when individualism and drawing attention to showmanship has become the norm.

Speaking of the first pitch, at the beginning of Game 2, the Dodgers showed some Hollywood glitz and good old-fashioned Dodger tradition when Vin Scully was introduced to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. One season removed from his 67-year run as the lead Dodgers Radio/TV voice, he slowly walked to the mound with a live microphone in his hand, speaking with that smooth calming demeanor that he is has become so famous. He introduced his catcher, co-MVP of the 1981 World Series, Steve Yeager. He then decided to summon another lefthander to actually deliver the pitch and legend Fernando Valenzuela emerged from the dugout to a thunderous ovation. And Scully, who is immensely popular stood back and watched as “El Toro” threw a strike!

And finally, in true sports tradition, from the “You never want to miss an important game because you might see something you’ve never experienced” Department, I experienced something quite unique before the Manchester/Wabash Sectional Football game at Alumni Field about 10 days ago. Wabash Athletic Director Matt Stone stood next to me in the press box as I manned the mic to invite the crowd to stand for the national anthem.

Stone was trying to cue up the music and it would not work. He tried continually for what seemed like an eternity. All of a sudden a Wabash cheerleader burst through the door and said she could sing the anthem if needed. Needless to say, I handed her the mic and she belted it out even after running up the grandstand stairs half out of breath. Thanks to her for truly bailing us out of a potentially embarrassing situation. Here’s to Abby Baggett, a brave young woman who should be commended for acting quickly. She did a wonderful and patriotic thing!

Posted on 2017 Oct 31