Bay Citizen launched about two weeks ago, offering hope for a sustainable non-profit journalism model. A few days later, I wrote a story for the site about Dallas Braden, which touches on his run-in with Alex Rodriguez, and his perfect game.
The piece isn’t precisely unwritten-rules related, but it’s still relevant to the conversation.
The theme I was after concerned the topic of respect, and what it meant to Braden as he grew up in Stockton. Respect, after all, was the basis for his exchange with A-Rod, and I wanted to find out what about his past informed his perception of the concept.
He told me a number of good stories, several of which were stripped from the final edit. I offer up two of them here.
During the late 1990s, it didn’t take particularly deep insight to recognize that Stockton’s Amos Alonzo Stagg High School was not as well off financially as some of its athletic rivals. This fact was not easily hidden.
In spite of this—or maybe because of it—when a visiting team showed up one day with its own lawn chairs upon which to settle behind the dugout fence during a game, members of Stagg’s junior varsity baseball team felt both anger and embarrassment. The bench provided by the school, it seemed, was too old and splintery.
One of the Stagg pitchers that day was sophomore Dallas Braden, who to this day looks back on the moment with disbelief.
“Are you that much better than us that you can’t sit on our dugout bench, on our slab of wood?” said Braden, who, as a member of the Oakland A’s, has gained more name recognition over the course of this young season than perhaps anybody in baseball. “It’s a slap in the face, a lack of respect for our facility and for us kids. It was as if we just weren’t good enough; that we were almost lucky that they came down and spent the afternoon playing baseball against us.”
The pitcher tells a story from his youth, when he brought home a friend’s Whiffle Ball bat, only to have his dog chew the handle. Though the bat was hardly ruined, and though money was always tight, his mother insisted that he replace it.
“She said to me, ‘You’re going to go and get him a new bat, because that’s what you would want done for you,’ ” he said. “I was nine. It didn’t matter that it could be taped. It was the principle of the matter. . . . My mom didn’t want to go to bed with that on her mind, knowing that she didn’t teach me the right way to do things.” . . .
Wooden benches on a prep ballfield or a pitcher’s mound in the Oakland Coliseum; poor kids in poor cities or millionaires playing a child’s game for a living; in Stockton or Oakland or New York City, the concept of respect doesn’t change.
You break a kid’s bat, you buy him a new one. It’s as simple as that.
It’s insight into the mind of a guy who understands baseball’s code better than most of his contemporaries, despite being just 26 years old and in his fourth season as a big leaguer.
It also helps explains what the Code is all about.