An Expat Life: Nicaragua Blues and Ruse
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Meeting Rod Carew
It's not often that you get to chat with a Hall of Famer. It's even more uncommon to do so at an ambassador's house in Nicaragua. A fitting 'birthday present', my encounter with 7-time batting champion Rod Carew was quite memorable.
A friend of mine made it happen...knowing what a baseball junkie I am, she made sure that I was able to meet with the 1977 MVP, as he was here in Nicaragua as a representative for MLB, conducting baseball clinics and whatnot in this already baseball-mad country.
As it turned out, I showed up at the ambassador's house and mingled with some co-workers, sipping on some rum, and before long, the baseball delegation began showing up. There were execs, a handful of Dominican scouts, and, of course, Rod Carew. Biding my time, I eventually got to chat with the famous Twin and Angel icon from the 70s. I think I may have freaked him out when I introduced him to a friend of mine as 'the only man other than Ty Cobb to win 3 consecutive batting crowns'. He responded with eyebrows raised, 'Some people know my career better than I do....'. So, at that point, I decided not to mention that I knew he had stolen home 17 times in his career, and that he and Willie Mays share the distinction of winning Rookie of the Year, the MVP, and a batting title.
What we did talk about was the state of baseball. You see, Carew is a purist. He explained how great the Canseco steroid thing would eventually be for the sport, ferreting out the cheaters and the one-dimensional ballplayers, hellbent on hitting 'jonrones'(home runs). I mentioned that my dad had always taught me to 'hit the ball where it was pitched', and he replied that was what he tried to teach young ballplayers. Notably, he mentioned a particular admiration for Japanese players, such as Ichiro, and he commented that pitchers, such as Nicaraguan-born Dennis Martinez, would do 'whatever it took' to get hitters out (read: cheat).
Interestingly, I found out that Carew was a former Marine, and he and Tug McGraw were very close to being sent to Vietnam. Seeing that everyone at the party was there to chitchat with Carew, I limited my time with him to a subtle 15 minutes or so, returning to the rum and coke circuit with some of my embassy friends. In all, it was a great night.....a perfect beginning for my birthday....