The Guru has pretty much seen and done it all. He knows the agony and ecstasy of both winning and losing a CIF championship baseball game. My junior year we trailed 3-0, rallied in the last inning with two outs to tie it, only to lose, 4-3, in the bottom of the seventh.
My senior year we again trailed, by two runs with two outs and nobody on base, only to rally for the tie, force extra innings, and win. Aside from winning our section, we were rewarded by being named National Champions by Collegiate Baseball magazine.
The Guru played in college and in the minor leagues. He knows what it is like to be released by a professional team—twice. He has been to about a million games, talked to thousands of athletes, seen winning and losing locker rooms, heard the excited, sweat-streaked voices of victory and defeat.
The Guru has been to the Coliseum when USC was in their greatest days of football glory, and he has been swept up in the wave of UCLA dominating on the Pauley Pavilion floor during their championship run. He has felt the pounding adrenaline rush of a World Series championship won in front of the home folks, and he can testify from first hand experience what it is like to see an Olympic record set, Snake leading the Raiders down the field in the last two minutes, Joe Montana in his prime.
The Guru has hugged total strangers and felt the bond of brotherhood with a teammate that can only happen in sports.
Last night at Dodger Stadium, however, The Guru was moved to tears by a 16-year old high school sophomore.
The most exciting high school sporting event I have ever seen
Kennedy High School of Granada Hills defeated El Camino Real High School of Woodland Hills, 4-2, to win the 2000 Los Angeles City Section baseball championship. There were 5,000 people in the stands.
It sounded like 50,000.
What moved The Guru to tears, however, was not the incredible action on the field, where baseball was played the right way by young men who have have talent, are well-coached, and were driven to win what for most of them will be the biggest game—indeed, it will remain the biggest moment—of their entire lives. The Guru is here to tell you that when the game of baseball is played in this manner, there is no other sport that is more exciting, more riveting to watch. When baseball is played the way Kennedy and El Camino Real played it at Dodger Stadium, it is a thing of beauty. Poetry. Art!
"Playing catch with my Dad”
From the stands, Adam Geery, sophomore, age 16, looked like a veteran pitcher. He is not tall, but rather a stocky kid, a right-hander with a good, moving fastball and a great slider that consistently nips on the outside corner of the plate. It would not be a great surprise if some day he pitches in the Major Leagues, but he is not what you would call a “sure thing.” He will get his shot down the road, a college scholarship, maybe he will be a high draft pick. That is all to be determined.
He pitched the game of his life, going all the way against El Camino Real, out dueling another sophomore sensation, Greg Acheatel. No doubt these two will square off many times in the future; in American Legion ball, in various prep games in the San Fernando Valley, maybe at Dodger Stadium for another City title. Who knows, maybe they will be rivals in college, perhaps even pitch against each other in The Show.
When The Guru went down to the field and caught up with Adam Geery, he was struck by how young he looks. Crew cut blonde hair, and the kind of boyish face that has not yet seen that much of life.
Except that Adam Geery has, and his answers to reporters’ questions made The Guru cry.
“The last pitch, when I struck out that guy, I just went on my knee and pointed to the sky because that was for him,” he said. “I can’t even speak.” But speak he did. As eloquently as any athlete The Guru has ever heard.
This young man was referring to his father, who died 10 years ago, when he was six years old.
“What do you compare this to?” he was asked.
“I can’t compare this with anything,” he replied. Then he thought about it.
“Playing catch with my father,” was his answer.
For any American male worth his salt, if he was lucky enough to have a dad who played catch with him, this meant everything. It is why so many people cry when Kevin Costner plays catch with his dad at the end of “Field of Dreams”. There is something primal, something so real, so wonderful about this memory. It supercedes all the arguments, all the generational differences that can be a bridge between father and son. It is something uniquely American, and when The Guru looked in the face of this teenage manchild, he felt tears well up from deep within his cynical being.
What this kid was talking about reminded The Guru of his own father, who spent hours practicing baseball with him. Never, ever, not once did Donald E. Travers ever say, “I’m, too tired,” or “I don’t have time,” or “Maybe tomorrow.” The sheer good fortune I felt at having had my father with me, beside me, supporting me all those years, right on up to this day—I felt so blessed, so lucky.
Adam Geery had a father. Until he was six years old. He has had to make do without one for 10 years, and he will have to make do without his dad for the rest of his life. Somehow, he has managed to grow up into a great, disciplined athlete, a champion. When he was surrounded by all his adoring teammates, with 5,000 people chanting his name, reporters asking him questions, in this, his greatest moment of glory, probably the greatest moment he will ever experience, it was his father he thought about. It was his father he dedicated this memory to.
Fathers who are there for their kids are the Real Heroes. They do not have to make a lot of money, be super athletes or be celebrities. Kids do not care about any of that. They just need their love an understanding. Sometimes, kids do not show their appreciation of their fathers, but Adam Geery showed just how much he appreciated his father. If you are blessed to have a father still around, love him and cherish him. Adam wishes he still had one to be there during the greatest moment of his life.
It was enough to make a grown man cry.
As for the 5,000 prep baseball fans at Dodger Stadium, they might not have been moved to tears by Geery’s words, because they did not hear them, but few will ever forget the back-and-forth death struggle between two Valley rivals that resulted in Kennedy’s sixth City championship. That ties the record held by Fremont. This will go down as one of the great City title games ever played, like the one in which Bret Saberhagen tossed a no-hitter to lead Cleveland to victory (1982), or the time John Elway came on in relief to give Granada Hills the championship (1979). It was the thrill of a lifetime for the kids who played in it; the people in attendance somehow reached back and made more noise than a crowd three times its size. The players heard the roar of a stadium that few ever hear while actually playing the game. It happened for the baseball players from El Camino Real and Kennedy who were lucky enough to experience it. They will never forget that sound.
There were no losers in this game. El Camino Real can hold their heads high with pride. Every kid on the field played the game for some purpose.
For Adam Geery, it was for his father. He was not there.
But he was. Adam’s father was there, and he was smiling. In a sense, this was for all the fathers. The Real Heroes.
It is enough to make a grown man cry.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism