Dallas Braden, high school heroes remind us to love the game


Dallas Braden has become a household name in baseball during the last few weeks. First, he called out Alex Rodriguez for disrespecting the game. Then, he threw a perfect game on Mother’s Day. He did it with a youthful energy and passion for the game. Braden’s perfecto was driven by his love for the game.

Mychael Urban of CSN Bay Area reminded Braden how special this game is just days before he made history.

Urban texted him, “Hey, guess what you get to do today? You get to play baseball.”

“That’s true,” Braden said. “But somewhere today, a little boy is going to put on a uniform and play for just the raw love of the game. And for that, I’m jealous.”

Braden’s mindset reminds us why we love baseball. It reminds us why, through all the steroid letdowns, the egos, and money demands – we keep coming back for more. Baseball is too special.

As Terence Mann said in “Field of Dreams,” “It reminds us all that once was good and it could be again.”

Baseball has recently reminded us how great it is. And how it will always be a great game through all the hardships and scandals. […]

Dallas Braden threw a perfect game on Mother’s Day – a special day for him. His mother passed away in 2001 when Dallas was only a teenager. His grandmother watched from the stands at Oakland Coliseum and shared the perfect and emotional day with him. That’s special.

Nearly a month earlier, on the opposite coast of the country, Nate Winters threw a perfecto of his own.

The 16-year-old possessed that raw love of the game. That love pushed the junior at Winter Park High School in Florida to return to the mound on one leg. He was nearly killed after a boating accident destroyed his left leg and ripped his right Achilles tendon and two toes. His femoral artery burst and he lost 80 percent of his blood. He was staring death square in the eye.

Winters survived. And the game he loved never seemed farther away. His dream to pitch in the big leagues was crashing down before him.

But he couldn’t give up on the game. With a prosthetic leg, Winters wanted to play baseball again. So, he tried to throw to a friend. The ball bounced halfway to the plate. His leg gave out on the next attempt and he was ready to give up.

But he knew he wasn’t ready to forget the game yet. He had a new prosthetic made with springs that could handle the rigors of pitching. Winters was good enough to pitch in some junior varsity games early in the season. He had some struggles – readjusting his leg, falling off the mound, a pulled groin – but he could play baseball again.

Still, he needed to clear another hurdle. He wanted to pitch on a bigger stage in a varsity game. And he did.

Winters pitched four plus innings and allowed one hit and an unearned run. His performance captivated the crowd and inspired a range of emotions.

The field was overcome with a joy that can only come from a pure love of the game. That’s special.

Back in California Thursday, John Sikorra finally felt that joy on the field. The senior at Chaminade High School in West Hills loved baseball his entire life. He listened to Vin Scully’s legendary Dodgers broadcasts religiously. But he never played the game. Sikorra is blind. He suffers from Batten disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that took his sight at a young age.

“Yet no demon could steal his love of baseball,” Bill Plaschke said in his profile of Sikorra.

He joined the baseball team this year after meeting coach Frank Mutz. Mutz knew he could find a place for Sikorra in the dugout.

Sikorra’s persistent smile inspired his teammates and he was named team captain. His teammates played great on the field as he took it all in from the dugout. Sikorra had three seizures during the season after big plays in the field. He could feel the excitement.

But he never experienced the thrill of hitting the ball on the sweet spot or backhanding a groundball for himself. He wanted to play. He wanted a varsity letter.

So, Sikorra led off the game Thursday with his father by his side. He heard his name and number announced as he stepped to the plate. He felt the impact of his bat striking the ball. He felt the wind in his face as he rounded the bases.

He felt the joy of the game within him as he crossed the plate. That’s special.

Even after tossing a perfect game and appearing on David Letterman, Dallas Braden is surely jealous.

Nate Winters and John Sikorra get to play for the love of the game. That’s special.

(Sources: CSN Bay Area, AOL FanHouse, ESPN, Los Angeles Times)

-Ryno Report