There are 23 large iron lamps affixed to the ceiling. The tints of neon light they throw down into the indoor batting cage, a concrete room tucked deep into the guts of Yankee Stadium, vary according to when they were last smashed out by errant balls and replaced. Under these lights, largely out of sight, Bam Bam (or “Sir Bam Bam” – but we’ll get to that later) is at the pinnacle of the game that promised much, disappointed more, and then came through for him after all. Across the street, the much brighter lights under which he and all that he was supposed to be receded and then disappeared have been leveled, along with the rest of the old Yankee Stadium.
From up close, the blunt crack of a Major Leaguer striking a ball with a bat – even on a tee – will startle almost anyone every single time. Not Bam Bam. He doesn’t even flinch anymore. He watches, and then places yet another ball onto the batting tee for his latest charge to smack into the netting that encases them both.
It has been 24 years since he first arrived at Yankee Stadium; 20 since the Yankees pawned their phenom off to Japan. This is his first time back, the culmination of one of the most interesting journeys in baseball, a bridge from the place baseball was to where it seems headed. His family is in town from Curacao on one of the last days of a season long since lost, with another loss a full seven hours away. But Bam Bam, who wore World Series championship rings on both his middle fingers before changing into a pair of San Francisco Giants shorts and a T-shirt, is mending the mechanical defect in the swing of a 27-year-old backup catcher five at-bats – one hit – into his first big-league call-up.
That’s the beginning of Leander Schaerlaeckens’ fine portrait of Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens. Head on over the SB Nation Longform and dig the rest of it.