One of the joys of fatherhood is indoctrination. My daughter Alison is eleven years old, and I’ve been filling her head with baseball since her earliest days. At bedtime we’d read stories about Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig and Shoeless Joe Jackson, and my heart would fill with pride when she’d identify photos of Josh Gibson or Babe Ruth or tell her mother a story about Cool Papa Bell.
Alison’s interest in baseball has naturally led to a love of the Yankees, and recently she’s begun to gravitate towards certain players. Derek Jeter has always been her favorite, mainly because he’s her father’s favorite, but she’s also become attached to players of her own, like Nick Swisher.
Jorge Posada has been another of her guys, and she’s been bothered by his reduced role this season. (But I’ll never forget the bewildered look on her face last August when I told her that he had played second base.) When Jesus Montero was finally called up on September 1st, I explained to her how excited I was to watch him play since he was the top prospect in the Yankee system.
“What position does he play?”
“He’s a catcher, but he’ll probably just DH this season.”
“But what about Jorge Posada? Where will he play?”
“Well, if Montero plays well, Posada might not play very much anymore.”
Alison’s brow furrowed for just a second before she passed judgment on Montero.
“Then I don’t want him to do well.”
I tried to explain to her that this was the nature of baseball, that as our favorite players age, there will always be younger players waiting to take over for them. I promised her that it happened to all players, even the very best, and that even though it’s a little sad, we might eventually grow to love the new players as much as the ones they were replacing.
“I still don’t want him to do well.” She’s a fan.
Alison happened to be sitting next to me on the couch when Montero came to the plate with the bases loaded in a scoreless game in the bottom of the second. The usually reliable Jon Lester was on the mound, so even though the Red Sox had been wandering the desert for a few weeks, it certainly felt like this was a big at bat. If the Yankees were to squander this scoring opportunity, they might not get another.
“Jesus Montero is up. Let’s see what he can do here.”
“I don’t like him.” She scowled.
Alison isn’t ready to like Montero, but she liked the result of this at bat. After working himself into a 3-1 count, he looped a line drive to left, scoring Robinson Canó and opening up a 1-0 lead. Russell Martin followed that with a single to score two more, and chests began tightening throughout New England. But it would get worse; Derek Jeter was up next. He liked the looks of the first pitch he saw and shot it into the stands in right center field for a three-run home run. Suddenly the lead had doubled to six, and Boston fans couldn’t be blamed for thinking back thirty-three years to another lead that slipped away.
Things got worse still for the Sox in the third, and again it was Montero. He came to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second, and he smoked the first pitch he saw (and the last Lester would throw) to the wall in left center field. Both runners scored, bringing the lead to 8-0. The game wasn’t yet three innings old, and already the Red Sox were resigned to watching the scoreboard and hoping the Rays would lose. (They wouldn’t.)
Montero struck again in the sixth. Leading off against Junichi Tazawa, Montero patiently worked the count in his favor, then effortlessly flicked a 3-1 pitch into the seats in right for the fourth home run of his three-week career. In three at bats he had singled, doubled, and homered, totaling four RBIs. He’s currently hitting .346/.414/.635 with three doubles, four home runs, and twelve RBIs. Sure, it’s a small sample, but it’s enough.
Whether Alison likes it or not, the future has arrived.
For the Red Sox, the future might be arriving faster than they’d like. Saturday’s 9-1 loss coupled with a Tampa Bay win to shrink their lead to two in the loss column, and I’m sure the Yankees would enjoy nothing more than a double header sweep on Sunday.
[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/Associated Press]