As discerning baseball fans, many of us tend to get a little snarky during the All-Star break. Part of it could stem from the fact that real baseball takes some time off, but a lot of it seems to come from a general conception of silliness. The Home Run Derby is silly. The fact that the All-Star Game counts for something is silly. Every team getting a representative is silly. While these all ring true in varying degrees in me, I still like the All-Star Game. I try, real hard at times, to not be cynical about baseball. Life is full of frustration and bleakness and disappointment and confusion. We shouldn’t seek that out in baseball, at least not too much. Baseball isn’t an escape from life, it’s an alternative. It’s where we would live were we somehow able to live inside a concept. This is why I try to watch baseball through the rosiest of glasses.
I also watch baseball for people like Steve Delabar. Until very recently, I didn’t know much about him. I know that he had blown out his elbow and was doing well after being an old rookie, but it ended there. Then, I stumbled upon the below video. Much focus was given last night to Mariano Rivera, and, of course, for very good reason. A swan song is almost always a touching moment. But save for a few remarks from Joe Buck, Delabar wasn’t talked about all that much. While Rivera’s story of poverty and success is a classic trope in baseball, I find myself drawn more to stories like Delabar’s. Because he fought the odds as an adult. He’d seen the other side, knew what it was like to be a failure, and persevered. He put the dour inevitability of normal on pause not once, but twice. Kids want to be Mariano Rivera. Adults want to be Steve Delabar. Delabar gives us hope that something — probably not baseball, but something — is still attainable. Delabar allows us, as grownups, to have children’s dreams. That, and he throws 97, which is cool no matter what age you are.