Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

Birthdays and Dreams

Charlie Zink in Pawtucket.  Courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Charlie Zink in Pawtucket. Courtesy of Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net and used with permission.

Forty-three years ago today, both Trevor Hoffman and Scott Cooper were born.

Cooper made his MLB debut in 1990.  He was an All-Star twice (both times being the only player from the Red Sox chosen for the ASG) and hit for the cycle.  He spent six years in MLB (playing on three different teams) with a one-year break in there spent playing in Japan.  Over the course of his career, he made just under $3 million total in salary.

Hoffman made his MLB debut in 1993.  He’s been on seven All-Star teams.  He has a list of impressive accomplishments and has been in the league for 18 seasons and is still an active player.  He’s only been on 3 teams (with 16 seasons on the Padres), he’s considered a lock for the Hall of Fame and over his career has, thus far, made over $80 million in salary.

I don’t mention the two to compare their talents.   I write it because, upon finding out they both share a birthday, it struck me how these two men, born on the exact day, had the exact dream and it turn out quite differently.  Every fan of Major League Baseball knows who Trevor Hoffman is.  How many know the name Scott Cooper?  It just gets me to wondering how the Scott Coopers of the world feel once their time in baseball is over.  Cooper left MLB after signing with the Rangers for the 1998 season and never playing a game with them.  He just quietly faded away.  Hoffman won’t get that treatment.

I love the superstars of the game.  Pedro Martinez is on my short list of favorite players of all-time.  I get the importance of the superstars and why they’re so popular.  But it’s the Scott Coopers of the world who fill up those roster spots more than the superstars.  Those are the guys whose stories I want to hear.  This is why I keep tabs on former players, like Kyle Snyder.  I’m in awe of those who go through the process of becoming good enough to realize their dreams but who also get their dreams shot down (or ended much more quickly than they anticipated).  Of course, while I still hold out hope that Kyle Snyder can make a comeback from his health issues,  there are other players whose dream is totally lost just because they get beaten down by the system.  Charlie Zink immediately springs to mind:

“I don’t love the game anymore the way I used to,” he said. “My dreams of the big leagues are not there anymore.”

How can you read that and not feel sorry for him and his dead dream?

I’ve had plenty of dreams.  Some I still pursue and some I’ve left on the side of the road.  But none that would leave me seemingly unprepared for the real world if they didn’t come true.  Or, at the very least, none that might mark me publicly as a failure if I didn’t see them through.  (Charlie Zink is not a failure.  Charlie Zink is a victim of really crappy circumstances out of his control.)

To many who know of him, Scott Cooper is a side note of a bad time in Red Sox history.  The Red Sox lost Wade Boggs to the Yankees, were struggling while the Yankees were making their comeback after the 80s and the ONLY player good enough to be on two All Star teams for them was Cooper.  What is most likely the highlight of his career is a question to so many (“How did he make the All Star team?” almost always gets brought up when his name does) and that too makes me sad.

They can’t all be Trevor Hoffmans  And while I believe Trevor and those of his ilk should get the praise and respect that they do, I feel that every so often someone (and I’m happy for that someone to be me) should remind people that there are other players out there who work just as hard, give it their all and dream of being the next superstar who don’t get as far or as famous but still are worthy of being remembered and appreciated.  None of these men are failures.  They made it to a level most of us only dream about.  That isn’t failure.  Failure is never even attempting to reach that goal.  There’s no shame in trying and not succeeding.

So think kindly upon Scott Cooper today.  After all, it’s his birthday.  Everyone should feel special on their birthday!

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October 13, 2010 - Posted by | 2010 | , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. During spring training in 1992 I had Scott Cooper sign a baseball for my brother-in-law that said “happy birthday, Dan” (sort of a family joke). I wonder if he still has that baseball.

    Comment by Brenken | October 13, 2010 | Reply

  2. Yes he does.

    Comment by sandy sox | October 14, 2010 | Reply

  3. I hadn’t thought about that baseball for years until Cyn put up this blog about Scott Cooper.
    Cooper for Scott (another family joke)

    Comment by Brenken | October 14, 2010 | Reply

  4. Thanks for posting the link to the Heaven’s Door book, Cyn–I contributed pics of Zink to Marty Dobrow (he found my blog post from Zink’s debut and contacted me) and hadn’t heard anything in a while. I went to Amazon and “looked inside” his book, and it shows the acknowledgment page, and he thanked me and Kelly! (He said we were “exceedingly generous,” woohoo!) So now I can’t wait to see some of my shots and Kelly’s in print…

    Comment by jere | October 14, 2010 | Reply

  5. Well said, Cyn. I read Dirk Hayhurst’s Bullpen Gospels this summer and besides the fact that it’s a wonderful, poignant, hilarious book, it drives home very simply and beautifully how intensely baseball is played at every level. You get exhilaration and dread and nervous rituals and ecstatic relief when you’re competing in the World Series, but you feel relevantly similar emotions when you’re fighting for the double-A championship. When baseball is your career, you go as far as you can learning as much as you can and giving everything you have. When you consider the competitiveness of the field of professional baseball (most successful high school and college players never even get to try their hand in single-A ball) and consider the rarified nature of the skills involved, a man whose career culminates in triple-A is a highly talented and accomplished athlete who’s done pretty damn good work in his calling, and if he gets one September callup to the big club, it’s an accomplishment to look back on with well-earned pride, a mark of exceptional talent and excellence that his grandchildren will brag about decades later. Viewed in this context, Mr. Cooper’s resume–six years in the Major Leagues with two all-star appearances–is nothing like mediocrity; it’s an outstanding achievement.

    Comment by Elaine Apthorp | October 15, 2010 | Reply


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