It seems that every column I write lately has some sort of a New York Yankees angle. Get ready for more of the same this week.
Chase Headley, a 2002 Fountain-Fort Carson High School graduate, was recently acquired by the Yankees in a trade from the San Diego Padres. Headley is the Yanks’ starting third baseman. He paid dividends his first game with the club on July 22 when he drove in the winning run in the 14th inning of a Yankees victory over Texas.
I bring up Headley this week for a few different reasons. Very few athletes from the Colorado Springs region - about 625,000 people at last count - make a living playing professional sports. Headley joins Brandon McCarthy, a 2002 Cheyenne Mountain grad, as the only two recent grads currently playing at the major league level.
McCarthy, a nine-year major league veteran, is 2-0 in three starts since the Yankees acquired him in a trade in July.
So what are the odds of McCarthy and Headley both playing with the most successful franchise in the history of professional sports in America? I would say through the roof.
Footnote: Former Wasson grad Rich “Goose” Gossage also played for the Yankees and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe the Yankees just like players from our area?
I interviewed Headley several times when he was in high school. He was a remarkable young man with a great head on his shoulders. He was the valedictorian of his class and a starter on the school’s basketball and baseball teams.
He attended the University of Pacific on a baseball scholarship out of his high school, but transferred to the University of Tennessee. He was drafted by the Padres in the second round of the 2005 amateur draft.
Headley made his major league debut with the Padres in 2007. He had his best season in 2012 when he smacked 31 home runs and drove in 115 runs while batting a healthy .286. He finished fifth in the National League MVP voting that season.
I interview hundreds of high school athletes every year. Most of them play sports for love of the game. Most know that they will never play another competitive game beyond high school. Most are okay with that.
Headley was a guy who, while in high school, worked as hard at developing his skills in basketball and baseball as anybody I’ve come in contact with in my 25 years as a professional writer. But Headley was also grounded and didn’t talk - at least not to me - about his main goal in life of playing professional sports.
If he happened to make the major leagues that would be great. If his career ended on a college baseball diamond he was willing to live with that as well.
Too many kids - and their parents - I talk to today actually believe that playing professional sports is in the cards. They talk about as if it’s given as long as they put in the hard work and pay enough money to club coaches.
I can’t tell you how many disappointed kids and parents I talked to a few years after high school who are stunned that they didn’t make the big time. It is very sad to think that these people didn’t just play the sports for the love of the game like Headley seemed to do.
The official start of the fall sports season is less than two weeks away. I am looking forward to watching football, soccer, volleyball, softball and field hockey games. Other fall sports in Colorado include cross country, gymnastics, golf and tennis. Even cheerleaders compete for a top prize in the late fall.
There is nothing like the excitement of a high school event from a pure love of the game. The raw emotion is priceless.
But somewhere along the line some player or parent will talk about how their team was robbed by officials, or that the reason their son or daughter is not getting a college scholarship is because the coach doesn’t like them.
There should be more Chase Headleys in the world. A great student first dedicated to being a solid role model and contributing member of society. He was fortunate enough to make the pro level, but about 95percent of the high school kids who play high school sports this year in the Pikes Peak region will have their careers end at the age of 17 or 18. My hope is that they are okay with that and ready to move on to be solid citizens with the goal of improving their lives and the lives of those around them.