If you want an insight as to why some people, some communities, and even some teams seem to have all the luck, look no farther. Just read.
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.” – Luke 12:48 (King James Version)
It is the age-old question, or at least one of them.
That is, why is it that some seem to always have the luck?
Why is it that things always turn out for some, why others sit by and stew in their own stink, cussing their own luck…always wishing for something better, blaming someone else? At the very least, a better circumstance.
That was the thought that struck me as I observed the Versailles Diamond Club’s annual fund raiser Saturday evening at the community’s Knights of Columbus hall. A capacity crowd of more than 200 packed the room in the name of baseball at the invitation of favorite son and former Washington Nationals’ pitcher Craig Stammen.
Former, for the fact of off-season arm surgery that led Washington to non-tender Stammen for the upcoming season, leaving him free to broker a deal with another organization. And at 31 years of age, Stammon smiles and tells all who’ll listen that he feels great, self-assured that someone will take him at his word.
Versailles, Ohio is a small town built on farming, eggs, opportunity and smart business, and an all-too-obvious competitive tradition.
It’s a town that wins: Six state football titles, basketball titles, volleyball, baseball, track and field…a town without any obvious geographic advantage. Chicago and Cleveland have the Great Lakes. Versailles has the Stillwater River.
Small, yet commerce and optimism for the future always seem alive and well in Versailles, passed from one generation to the next. It’s an attitude. Or, call it a predisposition from the old adage…the best just seem to get better. There always seems to be light at the end of the tunnel…for everyone who wants to look in that direction!
It’s not unique to Versailles. Versailles is not alone. They win in other towns, too…in Coldwater, Newark, and Wheelersburg. Trust it, they never worry about under-inflated footballs in Maria Stein. They just adapt and win.
Craig Stammen smiled as he considered the evening Saturday, the crowd, the circumstance, and the opportunity for the best, to indeed, get better. These were not his words, mind you. A mere glimpse of the room spoke volumes. The record speaks for itself.
“It’s my opportunity to help give something back,” said Stammen, who would enter his 11th season of professional baseball already this spring (his sixth in the big leagues).
“This community and these people have given me so much over the years. This is my chance to help give back. Much is expected of those who have been given so much.”
Profound, even Biblical, Stammen has an enviable platform from which to give. He knows it, and he embraces it.
In its seventh year, the annual event has featured a number of Stammen’s major league colleagues. Saturday guests included Reds’ relievers J.J. Hoover and Ryan Mattheus. Ft. Loramie’s Jared Hoying, a AAA prospect of the Texas Rangers was on hand Saturday, as well as a handful of area high school and college coaches.
“We raise about $35,000 on an average year,” said Stammen, who had obviously worked his angle in baseball to provide the most unique items of memorabilia for purchase. There were live auctions, silent auctions, 50/50 drawings, and numerous raffle drawings for autographed baseballs, game-used gloves, spikes, bats, and hats.
National League MVP Clayton Kershaw, from the Los Angeles Dodgers, had signed a ball…ex-Red Eric Davis…hall of famer to be, Ichiro Suzuki…Joey Votto…and a handful of other notables.
As the event has grown, so too has the scope of its donation back to the community. The latest example of athletic renovation in Versailles is its gleaming new baseball complex, this coming on the heels of the recent makeover of H.B. Hole Field, one of the state’s iconic football venues.
If the best do, in fact, get better, Tigers baseball coach Ryan Schlater was raring to get started Saturday as he considered his team’s prospects for the coming season…as well as their new playing field.
None of this was lost Hoover and Mattheus, who like Stammen, followed the long up-and-down road through college and minor league baseball to get to the big leagues
“When you finally get the call it’s hard to believe,” said Mattheus, a native of northern California who’s with his fourth professional organization.
“It’s what you grow up dreaming of, but when you finally make it sometimes you’re really not ready to go. I was waiting on my apartment furniture in Syracuse, New York when I got the call and had to leave the same day for San Diego.”
Half of the money raised Saturday will be earmarked for a scholarship endowment, understanding that not every kid will grow up to be the next Craig Stammen. The “best” don’t just get better in baseball or football. Different talents require different means of support and encouragement.
“At least half,” added Stammen, as he gazed about the packed room. “This is one of the best turnouts we’ve ever had,” he assured the audience. “And I can’t thank you enough for coming back each year..”
Hope springs eternal, of course, in baseball, of course, but just as importantly, among those who see an even bigger picture, even in smaller towns.
It’s was no coincidence that the town’s leading businessmen were there, about a dozen corporate sponsors, sharing in the rhetorical optimism of another baseball season at hand, while ensuring success for different seasons ahead in Versailles, that they, too, continue to be fruitful, and winning!
If the best do get better, as some say, it doesn’t come through mere wishing. Craig Stammen, J.J. Hoover, and Ryan Matteus are living proof.
The model’s the same wherever you find winners. To whom much is given….!