Results tagged ‘ MLB ’

God Bless Michael Weiner

NEW YORK — The main thing I have to say about Michael Weiner is that he has a lot of guts. He is nearing the end stage of brain cancer and still is fighting the good flight. 

Now wheelchair bound, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Player Association was on the field on Monday evening at Citi Field surrounded by those who love him — his wife and support staff from the union.

A number of members of our baseball writing establishment who have developed wonderful relationships with him over the course of the years surrounded his chair and leaned over to hear him speak in a now hushed tone. I did everything I could not to openly weep in front of him. It’s been less than a year since he was diagnosed with the non-operable tumor. We have all watched him deteriorate in front of our eyes.

“Look, you’re never prepared to deal with this kind of change in life,” he told me during an interview near the end of Sprint Training conducted in the dugout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. “My attitude is that I’m going to enjoy every day that I can. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the family I have. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the job that I have. I’m incredibly lucky to have the friends and the colleagues and the professional acquaintances I have. And I’m just going to enjoy them as much as I can for every day. Hopefully it’s going to be a lot of days.”

A year ago in Kansas City at the All-Star Game he was his usual vital self. I sat with him in the airport the day after the game trying to jump on an earlier flight to New York to see my father, who had just had foot surgery. We talked about our families. I didn’t get on the flight.

The next time I saw him later that summer was in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium before a Red Sox-Yankees game. He looked up and the first words out of his mouth were, “How’s your dad?” That’s the kind of person he is. A mensch.

The cancer diagnosis came out of left field, so to speak. He was feeling numbness in his hand and went to the doctor. An MRI revealed the tumor. It’s called a gliobastoma. It’s in an area of his brain that can’t be reached by surgical means and is 99 percent fatal. Somehow I hoped and prayed that through chemo and radiation they would at least keep it at bay. So did everyone else.

But he told me on Monday that last month the symptoms took a turn for the worse and suddenly sped up dramatically. He’s lost function on the right side of his body and is taking an experimental series of drugs as a last resort.

Still, he wanted to be here for this All-Star weekend because as an attorney and head of the union, he absolutely adores the game, which excites us in times of strength and gives us solace when we are weak.

I know, When I was battling colon cancer four years ago, I covered the 2009 World Series in between chemo treatments. I wasn’t going to allow a little thing like cancer to keep me from a Fall Classic between the Phillies and my beloved Yankees.

“Even just sitting here in the dugout and talking with you and looking out over this beautiful ball field is a great thing,” he told me a mere 3 1/2 months ago.

I imagine he felt even more so on Monday night.

“You’ve given it a great fight,” I told him.

“That’s the only way I know to go about it,” he responded in a whisper.

“Nothing else seems to matter right now except what’s happening to you,” I said.

“Thank you. I appreciate that,” he said.

No, thank you. Thank you for your courage and your friendship and God bless you for all eternity.

Thoughts on the Green family

PHOENIX — I never met Christina-Taylor Green, but I feel like I have through her parents, John and Roxanna.

She’s the little girl, who was gunned down nearly two years ago in nearby Tucson by a madman with an assault weapon who was after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and shot 19 people, killing six of them. The attack in front of a Safeway market took 20 seconds and he was stopped only because the 30-bullet magazine he used expired and he was tackled while trying to change that clip. The guy bought those bullets that morning at a local Walmart.

He disabled Giffords with a shot to the head, depriving Arizona of a young Congresswoman and possible Senator and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, of an active wife and a hopeful mother. She’s lucky to be alive and has used all her effort and courage to recover. She had to resign from the House of Representatives and will never be the same.

He left the Greens without their beautiful 9-year-old daughter and as Roxanna said this week: “I have a hole in my heart and will forever.”

But the Greens have moved on, using their faith as a source of strength and a motivating force to bring change to an American landscape that last week led to 20 more families suffering through the pain of losing their little children because of gun violence.

I met the Greens a month after Christina’s death when they were still in the throes of their own suffering and have written a lot about their journey since. The community, the baseball world and their friends and family circled around them.

In the days after the events last Friday in Newtown, Conn., I thought a lot about them and how they were reacting to another round of carnage. It had to have hit too close to home. Then I saw Roxanna being interviewed on CNN by Anderson Cooper from Newtown. The next day I reached out to John on the phone and wrote a column based on that conversation.

By remaining active, they are keeping Christina’s memory alive. I can’t say enough about the quality of these people and their unbelievable courage.

John is a member of s great baseball family. He’s a national crosschecker for the Dodgers, His dad, Dallas, is synonymous with the Phillies, who he managed to their first World Series title in 1980. I’ve known him for more than 30 years. Their son, 13-year-old Dallas, plays baseball. Even Christina played baseball. She was the only girl in her Little League and dreamed of being the first female to play in the Major Leagues. She was also active politically in her elementary school and was excited to meet Gabby that morning. That’s the reason she went to that community event.

John said that the younger Dallas is adjusting to life without his sister. They were very close and Christina was very protective. She sounds a lot older than her age when she died. And now it’s almost two years later.

“I would say we’re doing pretty darn good considering the circumstances,” John told me.

I’m not sure I could do the same.

Rockies go home with fate in their own hands

PHOENIX — The Rockies return to Coors Field on Tuesday night to open a nine-game homestand against the Padres in control of the National League’s Wild Card race. By virtue of back-to-back Chase Field victories over the D-backs while the the Giants lost consecutive games to the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Saturday and Sunday, the Rox lead the Lads by 4 1/2 games with 12 left to play.

It’s not time to pop any corks yet. “There’s nothing finished,” said Rox interim manager Jim Tracy. “We have to keep plowing forward.”

But if the Rox hold their own at Coors against the Padres, Cardinals and Brewers, a second trip to the postseason in three years will be theirs. Like 2007, when they were swept by the Red Sox in the World Series, the Rockies will win the NL Wild Card berth. This time it should happen without the drama of a one-game playoff. Two years ago, they had to come from behind in the 13th inning to beat Trevor Hoffman and the Padres.

It still is up to question whether Matt Holliday actually touched the plate when he scored the winning run that October night. “Do you think I did?” Holliday asked somewhat rhetorically when I asked him about it again earlier this season. I covered that game and my answer was “no” then and it remains the same today. Holliday just gave me that little glint of a smile, leaving the question open for all eternity. The plate ump called him safe and that’s all that counts.

This time, the club has ridden Tracy’s managerial expertise. The Rox are 67-37 since Tracy took over for the deposed Clint Hurdle on May 29. And someday soon one suspects that GM Dan O’Dowd is going to remove the interim tag from his title with a nice, fat contract extension.

Tracy was a good manager with a Dodgers team that he managed into the 2004 postseason, but he’s even better now, riding the percentages and his own intuition to make effective moves. On Saturday night, he pinch-hit Ryan Spilborghs in the seventh inning against Clay Zavada. Spilborghs contribued an RBI-double and remained in the game to add another in the ninth. In that final inning, Tracy sent up Jason Giambi as a pinch-hitter and the former Yankee and Oakland star smashed a three-run homer.

On Sunday, both Spilborghs and Giambi were in the starting lineup. Spilborghs replaced the slumping Brad Hawpe with the added incentive of being 9-for-21 lifetime against D-backs starter Dan Haren. Tracy wanted to give Giambi some work at first base while resting Todd Helton. Spliborghs had a big single off Haren in a three-run seventh inning that put the Rox ahead to stay. Giambi went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer.

Giambi’s simply 6-for-15 with a double, two homers and 11 RBIs since he was taken off the scrap heap by the Rockies after his release by the A’s.

“I wasn’t healthy there,” Giambi said about the end of the line in Oakland. “But I’m excited to be here. It’s great to be in the race. I talked to a lot of people about Tracy and he’s a big reason why I came over. I’m glad I’m here.”

The Giants come into Chase on Monday night to open a three-game series against the 85-loss D-backs with the season on the line. They’ve lost three out of their last four at the season’s crucial time and can’t afford to lose any more. Still, if the Rockies hold their own it won’t much matter anymore what the Giants do.

“We’re at the great point in the season where we hold our fate in our own hands,” Tracy said. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be playing meaningful games in October. If we don’t we won’t have anyone to blame, but ourselves. There will be no excuses.”