When it comes to watching baseball players run, hit and throw
their way to success, forget about taking in any major league
baseball games this weekend.
Instead, if you want to see players taking part in the sport just
for the fun of it, head to Olive Park this morning. Starting at about
9:30, the best players the Burbank Park, Recreation and Community
Services Department leagues has to offer will be taking part in the
47th annual Hap Minor Baseball Civitan Day Jamboree.
With a parade that begins at 8:30 at Mervyn's in the Media City
Center Mall, the players will wind their way to Olive Park for an
end-of-the year skills competition. The competition involves
baserunning, hitting and throwing events, and the day is capped with
food, refreshments and a lot of awards.
Following in their counterparts' footsteps, the city's softball
players will hit Olive Park July 20th for their own event. The
athletes will take part in the annual Ponytail Softball Jamboree --
sponsored by the Foothill Civitan Club -- where the players will get
a chance to show their stuff in their own skills competition.
With the Hap Minor leagues, this is baseball at its purest. These
players compete in the Park and Rec leagues for the simple fun of the
game and the joy of just taking part. They are a world away from the
over-paid, coddled, money-hungry athletes who have helped infect
major league baseball.
With these youth players, there are no steroids, no big-money
contracts and you bet there won't be a strike prior to the
It's unfortunate these players have such poor baseball role models
and have to follow a professional game that is hemorrhaging badly
from recent problems and scandals.
There is no fun and no redeeming value that can be derived from a
game that threatens to be passed up in popularity by NASCAR (parish
But professional baseball has been its own executioner. With
strike threats, players accused of everything from using illegal
substances to being gay, home runs cranked out of parks at a fever
pace, and teams facing extinction because of revenue problems, the
game is in big trouble.
And if that isn't enough, the game suffered another black eye
Tuesday at the 73rd All-Star game at Milwaukee's Miller Park. With
the game between the National and American leagues tied at 7 after 11
innings, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig instructed umpires to end
the contest when both teams ran out of pitchers.
The All-Star contest is supposed to be the sport's mid-summer
showcase, an event to highlight the best athletes the game has to
offer. Instead, it just demonstrated what a quagmire professional
baseball has become and why many fans are leaving the sport in
If something isn't done to save the sport, we may be hearing the
death knoll of professional baseball as we know it.
Freddy Sanchez has never been known as a home-run hitter. From his
times as a successful baseball player at Burbank High and Glendale
Community College, to his two-plus seasons in the minor leagues,
Sanchez has enjoyed only an occasional power serge.
However, Wednesday, Sanchez -- who plays for the Trenton Thunder
in the Boston Red Sox organization -- proved he does have some pop in
his bat at the Double A All-Star Game at Dodd Stadium in Norwich,
Playing for the American League-affiliated all-stars against the
National League team, Sanchez opened the scoring in the first inning
with a towering home run. The solo shot off of Reading right-hander
Ryan Madson blasted off a third-tear billboard in left-center field.
Sanchez had just two home runs this season. He added a third in a
Starting at shortstop, Sanchez went one for two to help the
American League to an 11-2 win in front of a crowd of 8,009.
A former Foothill League Player of the Year at Burbank, Sanchez is
enjoying a fine season with Trenton. Last month, he had a 27-game
hitting streak and he is batting .323 with 96 hits, 56 runs scored,
34 runs batted in, 34 walks, 22 doubles and 18 stolen bases.
He has also reached base by hit or walk 36 straight games and has
hit safely in 40 of 43 straight games.
As the Red Sox prepare for a run at the playoffs, Sanchez could
prove to be a valuable commodity for the club. If Boston doesn't
bring him up, Sanchez could also be prime trade-bait for a team in
need of a quality consistent player.
Said Josh Goldfine of Sports Ticker Insider Report: "Trenton
middle infielder Freddy Sanchez is the only position player who could
bring anything of significant value in a trade. Sanchez ... is a pure
hitter whose ability to put the ball in play and do the 'little
things' may make him valuable to many teams in a rebuilding process."
If he is brought up when teams expend their rosters in September,
or if he's traded, it looks like Sanchez has a long, successful
career in front of him.
And come to think of it, Freddy Sanchez -- a local product with
many local ties -- could just turn out to be a new breed of role
models that our young players can look up to. Heaven knows they need
something positive to emulate.
* JEFF TULLY is the sports editor of the Burbank Leader. He can be
reached at 843-8700, or by e-mail at email@example.com.