My Protege

David PhilpAnalyst IApril 14, 2008
I'm not sure if I ever gave you my line about how stalking is really just an intense form of goal-setting. But I figured out a little more. Many times the goal-setting stalker is really an opportunity for the stalkee to develop your own personal protege. I've rarely had them on the big club. The older you get as a player, the more the press makes of the fact that this player or that player has been taken under some older veteran's wing. Maybe sometimes, but in general, there is not too much wing undertaking.

A lot of younger players come up and either 1) Think their hot sh*t and don't want to listen to coaches, much less their teammates, or 2) Are so scared they don't want to ask too many questions for fear of rousing suspicion that maybe, just maybe, they don't belong in the big leagues.

Meanwhile, most older veterans are desperate to hang onto their careers. The few who want to seriously go into coaching eventually realize that, to coach, you have to be able to speak with players other than the ones who look back at you in a mirror. But otherwise, the generations stick together in the clubhouse, just like the Spanish-speaking guys stick together and the religious right guys stick together.

Down here in the minor leagues, it's not much different. The veterans down here on rehab assignments don't want to forge too many relationships because 1) They don't want to jinx themselves into thinking they'll be spending more time in the minors than they need, and 2) They're pissed off that they're in the minor leagues and can't get over themselves.

Meanwhile, the young guys are usually too shy to walk up to the veteran guys down here for a cup of coffee and ask questions. It's just like high school. The career minor leaguers are the dorks, the geeks are the guys in the minors dying to make it all the way to the top and the most popular guys are the ones who are down for a week or two rehabbing a hamstring or rotator cuff.

Since we all knew I'd be down in Nashville for up to four weeks (it's already been two, but who's counting) and then, by weirdness and unfortunate illness, I ended up indirectly owning the Nashville Hounds, I've gotten more attention from the players on this team than most guys down here temporarily do. For example, Felipe Lopez was here for 6 days and 5 games. He was called up to New York after yesterday's game (we won and are now 2 and 9, not a good way to start the season). We all knew Felipe was going to be here for a week at most. He's a shy guy anyway, plus his mother still being held against her will somewhere in Venezuela made it hard for guys to go up to him and ask if they should stand in a batters box with their feet 18 inches apart or 19.

A number of players have spoken to me and tried to ask questions, but most kind of fade away out of fear that my Hall of Fame pedigree (you know how great I am, right?) will force me to appear surly and nasty. Then there's Rey Marcose.
Rey Marcos is not the protege I expected to have stalk, I mean, follow me around constantly. For starters, he's not a pitcher. He a shortstop. Second, he's 17 years old. I turned 40 on Saturday (virtually unrecognized beyond a Happy Birthday wish on the scoreboard - I guess even the coaching staff didn't want to pull a prank on me, like leave 40 turds in my new underwear or something [disgusting, but you weren't there for my 30th]). Let me re-read. I got lost in all my () and []... Uh...okay. So, we're talking about Rey Marcos, the 17 year old wonderboy shortstop who's now my protege. Another weird thing about our relationship. He doesn't speak one word of English. Totally serious. The team has an academy and a whole bunch of systems set up so young Latino guys coming up through the minors can learn English and basic life skills, like not to spend all their money at McDonald's (that's true - some Latino American guys make it to America and only eat McDonald's for their first six months, thus they gain 15 pounds that sure as hell ain't muscle). Rey Marcos has passed through the system so fast, he hasn't had a chance to learn how to speak English. When he sits down with me, it's like I'm Robinson Crusoe and he's Friday. I'm stranded down here, he's my only friend, so it's up to me to teach him English.

There are more parallels to the Robinson Crusoe metaphor. Like how I made my home in the jungle, only the jungle in my sense is the parking lot of Pepsi Field, where the Hounds play. My trailer is like my treehouse, only there are only three steps from asphalt to entrance (I have a fear of heights, except when I'm on airplanes - go figure). Rey hangs out all the time, then leaves for his hotel room somewhere nearby. There are people we need to be afraid of, generally groupies who want to find their way into the trailer and are thwarted off by Andy, my personal trainer turned security guard who now has his own trailer right next to mine (the team made Andy pay $750 to park for the month, which, of course, I'm paying since I'm the one who asked Andy to provide security for me. And, of course, I'm not really paying the $750, since New York is paying it, knowing I needed security (and knowing they're saving $$$$ since I bought my own trailer and didn't rent a house or suite at the Hilton for the month on their dime). Thus, New York is, in effect, paying Nashville for Andy to park in the parking lot. And since I, in effect, own the Hounds, New York is, in effect, paying me. Here's how the structure of payment looks:

I got lost again using () and []. I didn't use any {} and refuse to use <>. One day, maybe I'll use a full blog of . But that's way in the future, probably when Rey Marcos is playing in New York full time.
See how I got back on track? I'm a smarty pants.
Jimmy Scott continues...
Rey hangs with me and watches me eat. He watches me not talk to the press after games (some here think I'm a bad influence on him in that capacity). He watches me blog. No, his head doesn't rest on my shoulder as I type, but he's there, lurking, eyes always watching... Spooky, huh?
But he's a good kid. I've heard him speak on the phone with his parents in the Dominican. They allegedly invited me down for dinner sometime. Funny how I've played with so many guys from other countries and never, ever been invited to their homes. Maybe it's because I never invited them to mine. I'll ask Vanessa tonight when we talk on the phone, after Rey has left and headed back through the throng of groupies to his room, alone, the way I explained in my broken Spanish he should sleep. Hey, at 17 I would have done anything to have groupies want a piece of me. But I was a junior in high school with zits on my face and a fastball that was just being found. I didn't date (any relationship I had with a girl lasted no more than 2 weeks before she/they broke up with me on account of them not liking me anymore and, possibly, never liking me in the first place). Rey could have a "date" every night if he wanted. I'm teaching him not to. I was a father at 24 (while married, I was still a little young). I don't want Rey, with his lack of English and American life skills, to be a father at 17.
So now you know about my protege. He's hitting .419 with 2 HRs and 5 stolen bases. No errors. The plan is for him to play here and get called up in September. He'll probably be up sooner. So after I'm back in New York by May 1, I may have my protege with me before the summer is over. Maybe I'll have a chance to invite my first Dominican teammate over to my house for a nice dinner.

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