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Models, Roled


We don’t often use it (because it’s expensive, and Cameron usually won’t let us NotGraphs idiots touch it), so it’s been a while since we’ve dusted off the old FanGraphs time machine. While he was distracted by Liberty’s incessant need to play with a squeaky thing, however, I managed to sneak it out of the storage closet next to his office and squirrel it away in the constantly flooding basement that serves as NotGraphs headquarters. Just for funsies, let’s try to send Sam Donnellson’s latest article in the Philadelphia Daily News all the way back to the halcyon days of  1998–when the Internet was brimming with promise, America was relatively free of foreign conflicts, and I was fully enmeshed in the terribly complex politics of competing collegiate a cappella groups–without electrocuting ourselves, and see what happens to it:

The hardest part about being a parent may be imparting wisdom. Your logic could be rock solid, your delivery empathetic and on point, but the words just don’t have the intended impact.

So when Tony Fossas took his 12-year-old son to meet his favorite player this spring, there was an ulterior motive.

“Did you do pushups when you were a kid?” he asked Alex Rodriguez.

“Because I’m very into the fitness thing,” said the 40-year-old Fossas, now in his 11th major league season. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I did.’ And later I was in my room and I could hear the pull-up bar going. And my son was doing pushups on his own because he heard it from him.

“That’s the power and influence of a role model. As a dad, you say things. But somebody like that can say the same exact thing and it takes.”

Miami’s favorite role model finally made it home last night. Playing in front of friends and family, and playing against more than a few role models of his own, Rodriguez stepped into the batter’s box for his first-ever Joe Robbie Stadium at-bat at about 7:10 p.m. On the fourth pitch, he bounced a ball to one of his boyhood heroes, Todd Zeile, who threw him out by a hair at first.

It was a routine ground out, except that it never looks that way when Rodriguez runs the bases.

“The other day, he got jammed and hit a ground ball to second base and beat it out,” Fossas said. “It wasn’t even a ball that anyone should beat out but there was a little mistake on the other team’s part. And it wound up leading to a couple of runs.

“That’s why I would tell any kid what I tell my kid: Play like that.

“He signs so many autographs, maybe more than I’ve ever seen,” said Fossas.

“For me, as a kid,” Rodriguez said, “if I saw a professional athlete I definitely wanted an autograph or a picture. So every chance I get to take a picture, give an autograph to a kid, I’m going to try to do that.”

“He’s very humble,” said Mariners manager Lou Piniella. “But his confidence is off the charts.”

“I think the greatest compliment I could give him is this,” Fossas said. “They’ve got stats for everything he does on the field. But he cares about other people. He does things the right way. He respects the game, and respects his teammates, respects the fans. And it’s incredible how well he handles his success at that age. And how conscious he is of his status as a role model.”

I hope things worked out for that nice young man.