The hands are gripped firmly around a piece of wood that extends just a little over thirty inches. In a split second, it is swung through the air in an infinitely complicated, yet majestically powerful motion. Craig Biggio, second baseman for the Houston Astros, has mastered this part poetic, part athletic act that we call a baseball swing. On Thursday night he entered the game against the Colorado Rockies with a chance to become the 27th player in history to accomplish 3,000 hits. In the seventh inning, Biggio drove a ball into right-center for to reach the milestone. He didnâ€™t stop there. By the end of the evening, heâ€™d singled in five consecutive at bats, including a two out hit in the 11th that led to his scoring the tying run on a game ending grand slam by outfielder Carlos Lee. Movie studios (even Disney) reject scripts for being this far fetched.
You may have been unaware that the milestone was approaching. There were no excited debates on talk radio. ESPN didnâ€™t interrupt their coverage to televise the moment. The lack of national attention isnâ€™t because of something Biggio did wrong. Itâ€™s a testament to everything heâ€™s done right.
Heâ€™s never called a press conference to demand a trade. He wonâ€™t embarrass a teammate while on the field or during an interview. You canâ€™t find him appearing in any music video or reality show.
What he has done is play the game with a dogged determination and almost frantic focus. Heâ€™s devoted his baseball life to one city and organization while hustling on literally every play of his career. He's been hit by more pitches than anyone in the modern era and his batting helmet has more dirt on it than a page in Star Magazine. He agreed to unprecedented position changes as he moved from catcher to second base and from second to center field before returning to second base in 2005.
During an interview, he uses â€œweâ€ more than any other word, regardless of the question. Ask him how he felt about a big homerun? Heâ€™ll probably tell you that â€œwe are hitting the ball well right now and are just looking to put a winning streak together.â€ If you believe that such things are simply an act, consider what happened when Thursdayâ€™s game was briefly stopped after Biggioâ€™s achievement. In a moment that was all about him, Biggio instead grabbed former teammate Jeff Bagwell, now retired, and pulled him onto the field so the fans could also pay tribute to him.
The numbers donâ€™t speak for themselves. They shout loudly and emphatically, promoting the worth of a player who never worried about promoting himself. Biggio is 2nd overall in home runs among second basemen and 2nd in extra base hits. Among all players, he is 15th in runs scored and 6th in doubles. These achievements, which require extended periods of excellence, serve as both an acknowledgement of his place in baseball immortality as well as a reminder of his own careerâ€™s mortality. It is the bittersweet nature of reaching 3,000 hits. To appreciate the path taken to achieve the goal, one must inevitably acknowledge that the path is nearing its end.
If you wonder how Craig Biggio will face his baseball immortality, you need only look at how heâ€™s faced adversity during his career. The greats have a way of making the game look so easy that you begin to believe it has always been that way. When the Astros made the playoffs four out of five years but failed to win a playoff series, Biggio was labeled as a poor postseason player. He battled on, contributing to a League Championship appearance in 2004 and Houstonâ€™s first World Series berth in 2005. After a season ending injury in August of 2000, he diligently underwent rehab, returned the following year and hit .292 while scoring 118 runs. Heâ€™s felt the reality of life invading his baseball world with the tragic deaths of two close friends and former teammates; Darryl Kile during the 2002 season and Ken Caminiti, whom Biggio learned had passed away only hours before a series deciding playoff game in 2004.
Heâ€™s a grinder in the most complimentary sense of the word. He will respond to the twilight of his career as heâ€™s responded to all other challenges; by simply respecting the game and playing as hard as he can in each passing moment. It may not make him a regular on Sportscenter or secure him an interview on Larry King Live. It will, however, continue to define his legacy as a great ballplayer and an even better man.
Copyright © 2010 JasonTaylor
Biggio Rewarded, Revered in Historic Evening
Copyright © 2010 JasonTaylor
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