On a night when most Houston sports fans were out there falling off a cliff with the football team we know locally as the Houston Texans, 19 of us completely, or mainly, baseball souls were downtown at the Inn at the Ballpark, lapping up the diamond-shining thoughts of Gary Gaetti, the manager of the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters. Gaetti, an excellent former major leaguer, is also a former batting coach for the Houston Astros and a passionate baseball mind.
How good was he? Gaetti finished his 20-season (1981-2000) big league career with 360 home runs, just one shy of the 361 HR put on the books by a fellow named Joe DiMaggio. He also is one of the few men in history to have homered in his first two post-season times at bat in the major leagues – after first homering in his very first major league time at bat and going on from there to collect the most career home runs (360) among all other members of that select group. And, as Mike McCroskey also points out in an additional comment below, Gary Gaetti was only ejected from one MLB game over the course of his 20-year career – and that one sprang from the thumb of rookie umpire Phil Cuzzi in 1999. (Thanks for the important corrections and contributions, Mr. McCroskey!)
More than anything, Gary Gaetti is a bright, positive, strong baseball mind and the man who now plies his many gifts and skills to the job of directing young men who play the game out of love for the sport and in the abiding hope that independent baseball will become their gateway to a career in the professional game.
Last year was the maiden voyage season of the Houston suburbs’ Sugar Land Skeeters, as it was for their mentor and field manager, Gary Gaetti. The product at Constellation Field is off to a shining start for families looking for an enjoyable and entertaining way to involve themselves in the game.
As a baseball town, Gaetti rates Houston as one of the best at the grass root level. “From the standpoint of playing and instructional opportunities, and family support for same, the greater Houston area is either stronger, or as strong, as any other city in the country. People in this town know their baseball – and far beyond the credit they get for it nationally.” Gaetti doesn’t mince words in his evaluation of Houston as a baseball town.
As an independent league manager, Gaetti wants players who are capable of converting their low-paying opportunities in independent league ball into a contract with one of the big league clubs. Even though you get the impression that Gaetti the Competitor has come to realize from experience that a club at this level also needs a certain number of players whose abilities and ages make them less vulnerable to being yanked up from the Skeeters’ roster in the middle of a pennant race, that Gary the Man still prefers the guys who can turn the experience into a stepping-stone to bigger, greener pastures for themselves.
How else could he feel? Spend the evening with this guy and you come away convinced that he doesn’t spend time on things that are just about money. The man comes across as a strong, likeable teacher, the kind of guy who was born to be here as both a mentor to the young and a guardian of all the game stands for.
In a later portion of tonight’s program, SABR member Mike McCroskey gave us an excellent report on a book about the early years of baseball, going through the way the general rules and styles of play came to be. As I watched Gary Gaetti during the presentation, he was reading the handout on the 1845 Cartwright Rules and soaking up everything that McCroskey had to say. That’s passion in motion. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
Gary Gaetti admittedly came to speak tonight with a very unclear sense of how he had come to even make the commitment. He says he knew nothing of SABR before tonight, other than the fact that the group had this relentless guy named Bob Dorrill who kept calling him to come speak.
Gary Gaetti left tonight on the heels of spirited interaction with our questions and comments. He even arrived in time to have a beer with some of us as we were breaking bread in the hotel dining lobby. Gary left with a much better feel for who we are and a nodding informal agreement to see us again down the road.
Thank you again for being the persistent relentless out-reaching arm of SABR, Bob Dorrill! You just got us a new and valued friend, I think.
SABR DAY, USA. Later in the evening, Mark Rejmaniak reported on local plans for the annual observance of SABR day. Our Houston SABR meeting will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2013, from 1-4 PM, at the Home Plate Bar & Grill on Texas Avenue, just across the street from Minute Maid Park. We hope everyone will make an effort to join us that day. We will have a private room and some plan for book exchanges and maybe even a DVD presentation – and that’s all to the good of the delicious ballpark food and drinks that are available at “HP.”
The evening program actually began with our presentation of two identically framed and matted family photos of Larry Joe Miggins and his wife and parents in attendance at an early Houston Babies vintage ball game at the George Ranch Field. One copy was prepared for SABR member Larry Miggins and his wife Kathleen Miggins; the other was for Sherl Miggins, Larry Joe’s widow. Each framed photo contained one of the “LBJ” memorial patches that we are now wearing on the right sleeves of our Babies uniforms in honor of the man who shall remain forever with us as “The Spirit of the Houston Babies.” (For those who don’t know, our Larry Joe Miggins died in a car wreck on 9/14/12. We are all still trying to heal from the loss.)
Our message to the Miggins family was simple: “Larry Joe Miggins was your family member, but he belonged to our vintage ball family too. We all miss him, but we hold onto his spirit. And we want you each to have copies of the same “LJM” patch that still bonds us all together forever.”
Larry (The Elder) Miggins also shared this poem that Larry Joe wrote on 9/04/09, but only gave to his father on 8/019/12 at the day early celebration of the older Miggins’ 87th birthday. Unfortunately, or perhaps, most fortutiously, the father only discovered that he had missed reading the poem until two days ago.
Considering the fact the poem was only given to his father less than a month prior to his own death, it takes on an even more powerful impact upon the soul walls of all that life is about for those of us whose faiths travel on a similar track. All I can do from here is leave you with the message that Larry Joe Miggins delivered in close contemplation of his own older brother’s death just a handful of years ago:
If I Were To Die Today
by Larry Joseph Miggins
If I were to die today,
I’d want my friends, family to say
Of all the good that I had done
and friendships made, many more than one
I’d pray the Good Lord forgive my sins
And never mention, I’d offended Him
I only hope He will forgiveEternal life, I wnt to live
For in this life, s history stored
We all are judged, nothing ignored
But seldom do we feel God’s scorn
Thru his Death, we are Re-born
His life’s a lesson, make it your plan
He gave His life, He made a stand
He is looking through the cleanest lens
And all of my faults I hope to mend.
And if I were to die today
I’d hope my sins be washed away
For at times my light, not be so bright
But it shines bright, even tonight
larry joe miggins 9-4-09