Like most kids growing up, I had a dream of playing Major League Baseball.
Notice the word “had” in the first line. By the time I was 10-years old, the dream was over. Ruined in little league by poor talent.
After the realization that I wasn’t big league material, it was time to figure out a different way to get there. Becoming a sports writer seemed the most logical course. I wanted to cover professional baseball for a newspaper.
I put the dream of being a baseball writer on hold as I spent several years of coaching at all levels of basketball from 10-year olds to college. Even had an opportunity to work at the Miami Heat’s training camp in 1989 when the team selected our school for pre-season workouts.
Once my coaching career ended, working as a sports writer for our local newspaper was the next step. By 1995, my hometown entered the world of independent professional baseball as the Richmond Roosters of the Frontier League were hatched.
It was a great time, which allowed me to become the beat writer for the Roosters from 1998-2003. I would often sit in the stands instead of the press box. It was what minor league baseball was all about. It’s been a decade since the team was sold and moved to Traverse City, Michigan. I do miss it, but the dream of being paid to attend baseball games and write about them came true.
Every now and then, I get reminded of what was special about the Roosters. This week was one of those times as I found out a former player was inducted to the league’s Hall of Fame as part of the second class. The initial inductees last year included two other Roosters, Morgan Burkhart and Fran Riordan.
Bobby Chandler was only in Richmond for the 2000 season. Chandler set a club record for saves that season with 14, but it was a off the field where he provided one of my best memories as a sports writer.
I strolled into the locker room during the game at the end of the season and Bobby was sitting in chair …. taking off the “Rowdy” Rooster mascot suit. He was in the middle of four innings of service as the team’s mascot. I didn’t write about that night, but it was too funny to leave out of the post-season wrap-up story a few weeks later. Most everyone in attendance that day didn’t know that the team’s mascot would earn his final two saves of the season after jumping around in a chicken costume.
Even though Chandler never made it to the highest level of baseball, he was as “Big League” as the players that I met during the occasional trips to Cincinnati and Chicago for major league games. He was a true professional, who held the Frontier League’s career mark with 56 saves until 2013.
It’s hard for me believe that after 15 years, I’m still in contact with him. However, it is not difficult to understand that he’s in a Hall of Fame. He deserves it. Heck, he probably could have been a Hall of Fame mascot.
Congrats my friend.