By Doug Halberstadt
Frequent readers of this publication, and, more specifically, my columns know I’m more than eager to call out a professional athlete when they do something stupid or act like a knucklehead. This week, I’d like to take the opposite position. I’ve found a great story I’d like to share about Major League Baseball player J.J. Hardy.
Hardy is the starting shortstop for the Minnesota Twins. He’s been plagued with a wrist injury since early May. That injury has caused him to be put on the disabled list twice.
Hardy spent the final part of his most recent time on the DL with the Twins’ minor league Class A affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. He played in three home games with the Snappers July 1-3, before returning to Twins’ Manager Ron Gardenhire’s starting lineup.
Thanks to a recent conversation I had with Marcy and Jorgen Olsen, two members of the Snappers’ Board of Directors, I was made aware of something I’d like for all the readers to know about Hardy and the time he spent with his younger teammates while he was in Beloit, Wis.
Following each of the first two games with the minor leaguers, Hardy treated all of his new teammates to dinner. The first night, he picked up the entire tab at the Italian House in Janesville, Wis. The next night, he did the same thing at Casa Grande in Beloit, Wis.
Obviously, Hardy’s major league salary dwarfs that of the guys he was on the field with those three days. Thanks to his major league contract, there is no question he could undoubtedly afford to treat the team to dinner. What I find very cool about this story is, he didn’t have to. He had no obligation to those guys. Heck, he didn’t even really have time to get to know any of them.
He did it because he understands, and has an appreciation for, what it’s like to be in Class A ball and playing in the minors. It was a simple way for him to give a little back to the guys who, more than likely, will never make it to “The Show” and get one of those fat contracts.
That, in my mind, is a very classy thing for a guy in his position to do. In addition to his generosity with his teammates, the Olsens also told me Hardy was very generous with his time, meeting and greeting all of the fans and signing autographs.
Here’s a guy who’s used to being the starting shortstop on the major league level, and then he suddenly finds himself on the DL and somewhat out of his element. He’s then asked to go play at the lowest level of his profession. Instead of being a knucklehead about it, he responded like a true professional.
How refreshing it was to hear this story about Hardy. I’d like to be able to retire the “Knucklehead Athlete of the Week” columns and run only stories like Hardy’s. I’m just not sure I can come up with enough material.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the July 14-20, 2010 issue