I, like many nostalgic Angels’ fans, am curiously following the Tim Salmon saga. We wonder whether or not he’s gonna make the cut, whether the Angels’ brass sees fit to watch one last hurrah from a dying breed of player who spends a career in one uniform, or to do the trendy thing and " decide to go in a different direction".
When I think of this situation, I key into one man. Mr. Scioscia. What does Mike owe Tim Salmon? What does the manager of this contending baseball team owe to a guy who’s best years are most decidedly behind him?
Let me digress into a story, if I may (and its my blog, so I will). This is a true story, by the way.
Three and a half years ago, there was this kid. Well, at 20, he was hardly a kid, but you couldn’t call him a man, either. In early December of ’02, this kid was working as a contractor for the Navy, riding the USS Nimitz doing grunt work and data collection. This kid was in the throes of deep depression. He was lost, he was confused, he was scared, and he didn’t know what do to with his life. There he was, all alone on this bohemoth of a boat. No friends, just a few holier-than-thou engineers telling him what to do and where to go. He was in the chow line in the officer’s mess getting dinner one day when he noticed two guys in civilian clothes he hadn’t seen yet on this cruise. Now, he’d met most of the civilians riding that particular cruise, but it wasn’t out of the question that he had missed a few, except that these two guys looked strangely familiar.
"Hi, I’m Tim Salmon." The taller one said to a officer greeting them
"Hi, I’m Wally Joyner." Said the other.
The kid did a double take. How in the heck did two of his heroes end up on an aircraft carrier? Slowly sauntering to the table he usually sat at, he eyed the two in disbelief. Yep, it was Tim and Wally alright, followed by a host of other Angel legends.
The group fell into the chow line, which ran right next to the kid’s chair. The group slowly slid closer to him, and then right up next to him.
"Mr. Salmon?" the kid managed to utter, "Congratulations on the World Series."
"Oh, well thanks, kid." He replied with a smile and a hand shake.
"I’m a season ticket holder." he told the ballplayer, which was a little stretch of the truth. He was one in ’00 and ’01 but before ’02, he had run out of cash and couldn’t afford to get them. But his down payment was already in for ’03.
"Really? That’s awesome!" Salmon said, surprised. "Is that seat taken?"
"Let me get some food and I’ll be right back."
The two talked for a good 15 minutes, it was mainly Tim asking the questions, asking the kid about his job and how he ended up on the Nimitz and things along that nature before he was whisked off to do the next part of his visit.
For the rest of the trip, the kid had an extra bounce in his step. His depression and his spirits lifted thanks to a chat with a hometown hero. Their chat was neither deep nor life-affirming, it was just small talk amongst strangers. But it was enough to brighten the day of this scared and confused kid.
Things got worse for the kid not long after that trip. He depression deepened, the friends who once desparately tried to help him finally gave up. The kid finally gave in and sought help, and even then, the therapist was searched for weeks for ways to draw him up. Until finally she asked him "Let’s try and focus on some of the good things that have happened in the past few months."
It was as if something switched on inside his head. What instantly came to mind was those 15 minutes on board the USS Nimitz with Tim Salmon. As he recollected back on it, something happened that hadn’t happened in about a month, the kid smiled. He even let out a little chuckle. And that was a start.
As you may or may not have guessed, the kid in the story is me. And no, my life didn’t instantly turn around at that point. And no, meeting Tim Salmon didn’t change my life, but it was my building block. Every time I began to slip, I thought back to that meeting on the Nimitz, and it made me smile and remember that good things a bound to happen, you just gotta look for them.
Tim probably doesn’t remember me, I don’t expect him to. But I know Tim is the kinda guy who knows his role as an athlete, as evident with the Fish Bowl out in Right Field. The same is evident in him signing as a non-roster invitee and trying to earn his way onto a club which he’s shown just as much loyalty to as Gene and Jackie Autry have.
Getting back to my point. Mr. Scioscia, no, maybe you don’t owe Tim Salmon anything. But you owe that kid in the Fish Bowl, who saw his first and only live Angel game there. You owe that kid standing at the rail during batting practice, whose Salmon autographed baseball was all he brought for Show and Tell for 2 years, and you owe that kid on the Nimitz, who found a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark world during 15 minutes of lunch.