So... I'm not a professional writer, by any means. I appreciate the art of writing. I find that conveying opinions through print can not only help change others' perceptions and beliefs, but works even more effectively when they are illustrated not in the manner of a comment or three-sentence paragraph, but through in logical, flowing, and narrative prose.
That being said, I have never been efficient at expressing my thoughts through this art form. English was not my first language (that honor belongs to Hindi, which, for those not familiar, a complete garble of a language); in fact, I only started speaking and writing it when I was around seven years old. Through my life, I have struggled with the mastery of communication both orally, and through print. And even to this day, I have not found a repertoire on writing skills that has helped me to elevate my style.
That fact frustrated, and to a certain degree, still frustrates me. To live in a country where success hinges not on communication, but on the ability to communicate and on the manner through which words are chosen and how they are said is cruelty in a guise, but is only one negative in the sea of positives. To, however, have a society where there seems to be no practical application put towards teaching these tools of the trade effectively in what is otherwise an impressive education system* is cruelty to the highest degree.
* Yes, even coming from the Eastern Hemisphere of the world, where a four hour commitment to studying a day is a recipe not for success but for disappointment, I believe this to be sincerely true. Although this is a subject that I do want to address sometime in the future, I believe that a simple thought is enough to explain my point of view: In the US education system, you can become nothing. But you can, with relative ease (compared to much of the world) became anything, or anybody that you want. A little dedication, a foundation of hard work, and a coat of ambition will get you anything that you want in this country. Anything. And I cannot say that about any other place on the globe.
However, around three years ago, I found a man who taught me how to write. His name is Joe Posnanski.
I doubt Joe is the smartest person in the reporting business. I doubt that he is smarter than many of the people who compose studies for Fangraphs or Beyond the Box Score, or even this great site. But of a few things I have no doubt: Joe does not make arguments that he cannot argue fully, from top to bottom. Joe instead does something that I have tried to emulate (rather unsuccessfully, given by record, I might add). He brings the stories to the pubic in a manner quite unlike what you’d expect from a man in the media business- that is, he makes them simplistic. He makes it so that it does not matter if followed him from his roots or whether you were picking up his work for the first time; you understood the point that he was trying to make. He takes complicated viewpoints and spins from directions you could never have seen with your intellect or with your eyes, but he filters them down so that the excess clears away and you are only left with the simple, bare, and naked truth gleaming at you: a scaled down version of a moment that is simply not found too often in life, such as your first serious kiss or the first sight of your own kid. I am not ashamed to say that I have tried, and still try to emulate a bit of Joe every time I write.
I wanted to write about Omar Infante, There are a hundred thousand words that can be said about the life of a human being. There are still many more that can said about a person that reaches the zenith of what they have strived to do. Yet even at that, much more, much much more, can be said about the soul who willingly changes their surroundings completely, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, to find and achieve their goals, for these are those who make the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit; that is, they reject everything they have to turn themselves towards something they want*.
*That is a sacrifice, and no matter how petty the change may seem, it still remains a hard and arduous path towards change . Think about this yourself, and ask yourself what the hardest decision you ever had to rule upon was. I guarantee you that the decision involved two separate entities: your life as it was, and your life as it maybe. Now, for those of you who ultimately choose to go towards your goals rather than stay, ask yourself this: how much harder would this decision have been if you had to give up your home, your family, and your friends? These are the type of decisions that involve the ultimate sacrifice.
But today we do not focus on Omar: we do not focus on his past, or current, struggles and troubles of which we may have no knowledge; we do not focus on how he came to be or what he is now, even though, as I mentioned above, he does fall in the category of those who have had to make the ultimate sacrifice. I want to focus on the one thing that anybody ever focuses on when the topic of Omar Infante comes up- his selection.
Back in sixth grade, I was an awkward person. I had come to America two years previously in my short shorts (yes, they were, and still are popular, in my home country), with an accent that may have hinted to others that I had been bitten by a rabid bat sometime ago, and with utterly no friends or self-confidence in this New Land. But slowly, rock by rock, I had climbed higher and higher through the social ladder, and had made quite a few friends along the way. One of my better friends was named Udallok. Much like me, he had come from India (albeit three or four years earlier, although I cannot remember the specific date). He had a heart of gold. He was, and still is, one of the kindest people I have ever met. But he was, well, also pretty socially awkward, but unlike me, he also caught a lot of flak for it.
But in sixth grade, other stuff happens. All of a sudden, girls start looking cuter and cuter, and boys start veering away from being with each other towards hanging out with girls. There was a girl that I and, I am very sure, every boy who had ever meet her or talked to her or even seen her had a crush on. Her name was Paula. If I remember correctly, she was from Switzerland, and she was undeniably, in my humble (yet I would have gladly picked a fight with any boy that year who would have said otherwise) opinion, the cutest and nicest girl ever.
In sixth grade at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School in Oak Park, IL, still other stuff happens. You were taught how to dance in your physical education class. But the most stifling part about it was that for the entire two week course, you were paired up with a girl in your grade. That was a problem. We still do not know how it happened, but when Udallok’s name came out in the rough and raspy voice of our gym teacher, Mr. Gillespi, Paula’s name was announced right after.
I am pretty sure Udallok liked Paula as much as the rest of us. But I am even more sure that if he knew how he was going to get treated for the rest of that year by every other idiotic boy in that class, Udallok would have cut and run right then and there.
Omar Infante has received much ire from the fans of the defensive wizard of Washington, Ryan Zimmerman. And from the fans of any other team that held that they had a player who deserved to make the All-Star Game. And from numerous announcers, reporters, and fans, who on any other day would merely question the early warning signs of degenerative brain disease in Charlie Manuel, who now believe that Manuel should be in a retirement home organizing lineups and pitching rotations in the local fantasy league.
Let's make a point clear. There is very little criticism that has actually headed Omar’s way. Nobody blames him for the All-Star nomination, and nobody blames him for his acceptance, because there is no point in laying blame where it does not belong.
But people need to stop questioning this decision as if it is akin to the United States deciding to carpet-bomb Darfur tomorrow. This is not a major decision, by any means. This decision will have little to no ramification in the long history of the baseball season, not to even consider actual baseball history, or even relevant events.
Sixth grade became hell for my friend, not because of his decision, but simply because of random events that should have been, on the whole, Positive, but yet seemed to conspire against him. Nobody ever criticized him for not asking our gym teacher to give him a new partner as to prevent further abuse coming towards him. Middle-schoolers criticized Udallok for no reason other than he was Udallok, the kid from India, and he had no business being with a princess from Switzerland in Paula. Not once did these hurtful comments have a role in determining how the rest of the school year played out, let alone the three years that Udallok was at that school. The comments did only one thing- hurt my friend, and make life hell for him.
The difference between Omar Infante and Ryan Zimmerman is not enough to dictate a win for the hapless NL over their statistically more powerful AL foes in this All-Star game. That is a fact. Another fact- the only thing that the Infante selection has done to this point for Omar is show him the ugly side of people he has never met, people who would not pass a second thought to him if he had not made the team.
But as Udallok would tell you, there is a price to pay for random chance. By all means, a chance to dance and interact with one of the cutest girls in the school should have been an amazing opportunity and experience for my friend. He got that chance. It was utterly random. And he ended up getting screwed on it.
It was by random chance that Infante got selected to the All-Star team. It was by random chance the Bud Selig and the MLB made the rule which dictated that allowed both managers to choose one player to take out of the game, and put back in at a later inning; and, it was by random chance that Charlie Manuel choose Infante. Omar Infante, by all accounts, is blessed to be an All-Star player. But as Omar would tell you, there is a price to pay for random chance.