My garage is filled with boxes overstuffed with trophies. Molded plastic reminders of my two boys’ childhood activities. Trophies for baseball, basketball, Taekwondo, theater, rocket-building, you-name-it. If my wife and I drove them to it, coached them in it, worked the concession stand or bought the annual coupon book to support it, the boys earned a trophy for it.
Not that the trophies weren’t well-earned, in a sense. Every kid got a trophy. It would have been an injustice if either of them didn’t bring home the hardware. Everyone was a winner. There were no losers.
I recall when my boys first began playing T-ball, the score wasn’t kept and standings weren’t posted. All the teams were in first place, all the coaches were brilliant and all the kids were future Mickey Mantles. At one point during one season my youngest son looked at me and said about his team, “We stink.”
You see, as much as the adults try to hide it and say it doesn’t matter, it matters to the kids. They know whether or not they catch the ball as often as the next kid. They know that the adult yelling increases when they run from home to third, instead of home to first. And they know when they’re the ones who are always given that extra whack at the ball resting on the tee when the other kids smack it on the first try.
As a parent, you really can’t hide the talent of your kid, especially from your kid.
As adults, you’d think we would know better. But when it comes to our kids, that’s one thing. Who knows, maybe all that pre-K coddling on the diamond is good for your kid’s self-esteem?
But when we treat 24-25 year olds who have been given millions of dollars to play a game in which not only adults in the game keep score, but casual observers keep track of the score, how you compare to others in the game and how your team fares, then trying to hide an inability to play up to par becomes less noble and more embarrassing.
At this level, they’re called professionals and only the best get rewarded or handed trophies.
Mike Moustakas is one such kid. His “parent,” Kansas City Royals General Manager Dayton Moore keeps giving him trophies.
In 2012, Moose, as this 25-year old kid is affectionately known, had an acceptable year. He didn’t necessarily do better than the other kids in the game, but that was alright. He did just fine, and made Dayton and others around him happy. He only hit .242, but he hit 20 home runs and made the crowds cheer. The fans wrote his name on posters and waved them at the stadium. They even developed an affectionate way to call his name in unison: “Mo-o-o-o-o-s-e.” For this, he got his reward, or trophy. He got to come back as the top kid on the team at his position.
Except he didn’t do as well in 2013. He only hit .233 with 12 home runs. The crowds didn’t clap as much for him. There were fewer posters bearing his name. And sometimes “Mo-o-o-o-o-s-e” sounded an awful lot like a chorus of “b-o-o-o-o.” But everyone around him, including Dayton and his manager, Ned Yost, told Moose he was top notch.
And they gave him another reward, another trophy. He got to start the 2014 season as the top kid on the team at his position.
But things didn’t going so well again. He was hitting the ball even worse. His average dropped to around .150. He began to worry. He slumped his shoulders and moped back to the dugout when he struck out. The chorus of “b-o-o-o-o” was definable. But Dayton and Ned told him not to worry. They told him that they weren’t even going to be concerned until he reached 100 at bats. And they said a kid like him, well, you can’t really judge him until he has about 1500 at bats total.
So Moose kept on playing. And swinging. And not getting hits. One-hundred at bats came and went. Ned and Dayton came out and said they were just kidding about the 100 at bat thing. They kept letting Moose play.
Then, this other kid came along. His name was Danny Valencia. Nobody really knew him. He didn’t even have a nickname like “Moose.” But he hit the ball. And when he did, he ended up on base more often than did Moose. And the crowds started cheering for him. And that made Danny smile. And seeing Danny smile, and hearing the crowds cheer, that made Dayton and Ned smile.
Ned and Dayton started to let this other kid play more. Soon, they told Moose he couldn’t play on their field anymore and sent him to play in Omaha. Where he stayed.
And played. And rode the bus. And tried real hard. And batted .213 until his last two games when he raised his average to .355. But it was only two good games that made his average look so good. And he really hasn’t been gone all that long. It’s almost like Ned and Dayton never really wanted to send him away to begin with. How long could they endure his absence? Surely, the last two games in which he feasted on AAA pitching to go 6-for-8 with two doubles was the sign everyone was looking for. Besides, if he stayed in the Minors any longer, it might seem like all those rewards and trophies really didn’t mean that much.
Then, before you knew it, the new kid, who still didn’t have a nickname, got hurt. So who did Ned and Dayton call to take his place? Moose, of course.
He didn’t really do anything to deserve it. Moose, like any other kid, would be the first to tell you that nothing has really changed. If you asked him away from everyone else, he’d probably utter something similar to what my 5-year old son once said, something like: “I stink.” But he has been rewarded quite a bit for stinking. And, once again, he got rewarded for his excellent batting average in the Minors over eight games and now he’s playing with all the big kids in the big ballpark again.
Ned and Dayton said he can start all over. It’s his second half. A batting average of .000. All that other stuff earlier this season, well, it didn’t count. Now we’ll all keep score. A whole new beginning. Might as well forget about his first 1500 at bats, too. Just like a rookie. What a wonderful splash he may make!
Who knows? Before long he may even add to his trophy case.