By Dan Bernstein
It’s only about a minute long, and it’s not even new. But a short video of the Astros’ Jose Altuve that was posted to Twitter by baseball equipment manufacturer Marucci on Saturday was well received enough to earn 24,000 likes and 11,000 re-tweets.
The clip came from a documentary produced by MLB Network in 2015 that told the story of the unlikely rise of the 5′-5” slugger from a poor upbringing in Maracay, Venezuela. He visits the hardscrabble field on which he began to play as a toddler, describing the dedication of his father in taking the time to practice every day with the lone baseball they possessed, hitting him ground balls and pitching to him, chasing the ball down each time, wherever it went.
Altuve mentioned that all too often it would end up fouled away irretrievably, stopping their session at that moment and starting his quest for a new ball. He motioned toward the nearby stadium that is the home of the Tigres de Aragua, the local pro team, and said that he would then spend time begging players for a ball, or camped out beyond the fence to try to chase down a home run, ready to report to his dad that daily practice could resume.
@MarucciBaseball sent it out with the line “Every player in the United States should watch this video of Altuve” and they are right. It carries new significance, especially in the wake of both their World Series title and his being named American League MVP.
The responses range from “That hustle, that struggle is what made him,” and “Easy to forget that sometimes these guys come form virtually nothing,” to a deeper and more thoughtful response from Twitter user @hollyrose3113, who observed “Stories like this are why I get so irritated when people complain about some Latin American baseball players being ‘too flashy’… if you grew up having to hustle just to get a ball, damn right, you should be livin’ it up right now if you want to.”
That last comment even garnered 287 likes of its own.
For those of us who have been shepherding kids through youth baseball for years, it was a stark reminder how far removed we are from such hardships. Our well-stocked house-league teams have buckets of new baseballs every season, and gleaming white ones out of the box for every neighborhood game. A kid gets his own to take home after a notable performance, writing the date and his stats on it and setting it on his bedroom dresser. And the swagged-out travel teams are another story altogether, arriving at tournaments with their name-embroidered bags and hitting shirts, custom water bottles and pullovers, and the latest allowable trampoline of an aircraft-grade aluminum bat.
That much of this stuff says Marucci on it is part of why it’s cool that the company sent this out. They supply the famous big leaguers as part of advertising to these kids and to us, yet chose to remind us how lucky we are to have access to what we need and the ability to afford it. It’s not just their baseball products in this case, but any at all.
There were more responses:
“Unbelievable. Makes u know how spoiled we r.”
“Everybody living in the first world should watch it.”
“Amazing video, thank u. Puts things into perspective.”
And this: “Makes me think about how lucky I am.”
There’s another word for all of it, one for this upcoming weekend that makes this even more timely.
We should be thankful for what we may have taken for granted, thankful for stories like this to be chronicled and shared and available to be spread instantly on such opportune and seemingly needed occasions. Baseball fans should be thankful for Jose Altuve himself, a dynamic, personable and highly unlikely superstar who took that one baseball he had and became a champion.