Taking “Elite” to an Whole New Level.
Years ago, I had an interesting conversation with Bob Fontaine, a baseball lifer and general manager of the San Diego Padres at the time. We were watching 30 or 40 minor league players working out and I made some comment about there being a lot of talent out there on the field.
“Do you remember the name of the best athlete in the history of your high school?”, he asked.
“I do,” I said. “It was Bill Hedeman. He lettered in football, basketball and baseball for all four years.””
Fontaine nodded towards the young ballplayers. “Every one of those kids out there was the best athlete in the history of his high school,” he said. “And only two or three of them will ever appear in more than a handful of big league games.”
That was the first time I think I fully came to understand just how elite and how uniquely gifted anyone who makes it to the big leagues really is.
But every so often, every decade or so, someone shows up who stands out from all the rest of those elite athletes … the crème de la crème, as it were.
Rafael Devers is 20 years old and from the Dominican Republic. He has vaulted through the Red Sox minor league system, excelling at every level. Devers played in only nine games for Pawtucket, a team at the highest minor league level, before being called up to the Red Sox on August 5th.
He sat out that first day—his one day of acclimation—but made is debut the next night when Boston’s opponents were the Chicago White Sox. Devers’ first hit in the major leagues came that very night: a home run over The Green Monster, Fenway Park’s iconic left field wall.
A day or two later, in Yankee Stadium, Devers sent a 103-mile-an-hour pitch from Yankee pitcher Aroldis Chapman, sailing more than 400 feet into the night for a home run that tied the game, making it possible for the Red Sox to win the game in extra innings. Through Saturday, Devers has a total of nine homers, is batting .364, and has become the Red Sox regular third baseman.
Imagine what it must be like for a kid from the Dominican Republic to perform at such a high level in front of 37,000 rabid Red Sox fans, the most knowledgable and the most demanding in all of baseball. From all appearances, he seems to be doing it the right way: with joy.