By Rob LaBrie
“Man I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same
But somewhere here in between the city walls of dyin’ dreams
I think his death it must be killin’ me” – Jakob Dylan (The Wallflowers)
They are the best in the world. They are the specimens we wish to model ourselves after. Their bodies are so perfect, yet in the end, they are so human. They are no different from us. They are born, they live, and they die. They aren’t immortal. We know that. We are taught very early in life that everything will come and go. But they aren’t that mortal, right?
Baseball players don’t die in the middle of their career. They are strong, fit, and living the life we all want. They are making more money than most of their admirers could dream about, and could probably get just about any girl they could find. Their lives are perfect, and when you are living the perfect life, you don’t die.
At least, you shouldn’t. It’s not right. It’s not fair. It’s not logical. It’s not even fathomable. It’s life.
Josh Hancock was snatched from the world early Sunday morning. He was 29 years old. He was in the prime of his pitching career and he had an entire life ahead of him. Last year he was a world champion, and this year, he’s left the world completely.
Hancock wasn’t out drinking. He didn’t overdose on drugs. He wasn’t trying to commit suicide. He didn’t even have health problems. The only problem he had was that he wasn’t invincible. Josh Hancock was only too human.
We hold athletes and, when you think about it, youth up on such a pedestal, that it makes our hearts sink to our stomachs when we hear a story like this.
We don’t really take into consideration that death could have any role in the world of sports, or even in our own personal world until it comes up and smacks us in the face.
It makes us wonder what it’s all for. The St. Louis Cardinals will go to Milwaukee and play just another baseball game, except this time Josh Hancock can’t play too. The team will carry on, the season will carry on, but Josh Hancock will not.
It will be unbearably difficult for St. Louis to be sure. This is a scar that will never truly fade away. It is one that these players will carry with them. They lost a brother.
Hancock didn’t have a wife or children. The St. Louis Cardinals were his family, and to lose a family member is an unspeakable tragedy. The Cardinals will certainly be hurt by this, but they will fight on. Josh Hancock’s dreams for his future have come crashing down, and now it is the Cardinals who have to think about their future without Josh.
“But somewhere here in between these city walls of dyin’ dreams
I think his death it must be killin’ me”
This is the second time in five years St. Louis has suffered a horrible loss like this, but there is still no blue print for the Cardinals to find a way to get through the pain and loss, both off and on the field, of their friend and their pitcher. They simply have to do it their own way and work through the sorrow to play another game and live another day.
But life and time moves in such a manner that everything comes and goes. Nothing stays the same… or does it? Sure the people are always different. In 30 years, every player, every manager, every GM, and every ump in Major League Baseball will be gone. Everything will be different, but nothing will be changed. There will be nine innings in every game. The bases will be 90 feet apart. The batter will be called out after three strikes. A sacrifice bunt will be a waste of an out. And the umpire still won’t know jack.
“Man I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same.”
Is this sad logic? Is it morbid to look at our lives as simply a run through the gauntlet? Maybe, but there is one flaw in the theory and that flaw is also the basis of the whole theory; that we are in fact human. We feel emotions and we have our memories of times past.
Josh Hancock will not be forgotten. He wasn’t a well known player by fans outside of St. Louis, but to those who are suffering the greatest loss, members of the Cardinals organization, St. Louis fans, and his family and friends, will have the memories of Josh to help them get through. Josh Hancock’s life was well worth living, because he was a big part of the chain.
This is the role death plays in sports. It makes us step back, take a look at ourselves and wonder just how important the game on the field really is. It is sports’ ultimate reality check.
May you rest in peace, Josh Hancock. Your contributions are much appreciated by us all.