Usually, when I go to see a baseball game, the thought floats in the back of my mind: Will I see one of these guys on TV someday, playing in the majors?
At the college games I attend, the answer is pretty much “no,” as my local schools are not hothouses of pro talent. (There are occasional exceptions.)
Today, on a gorgeous 80-degree day, I went to see the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy play a game against Lehigh University.
And I thought, as I often do when I see Army or Navy come to this area: Will I see one of these guys in a televised briefing someday, explaining a military action?
On the baseball field, the young men of Army or Navy look and perform no differently than the young men of Lafayette or Lehigh. There’s no real reason for me to think about their futures, any more than I should look at the Lehigh kids and think: Hmmm, wonder if he’ll be an engineer with IBM or General Motors?
Still, I often find myself thinking about the unique career path the Army and Navy players are headed down, and wondering if there could be a future Chief of Naval Operations or Chief of Staff of the Army out on the field playing long-toss.
(A quick online search does not indicate that any recent Navy top brass are former ballplayers … though I did learn that Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach, two Midshipmen better known for their football exploits, are both former captains of the Navy baseball team.)
The one Navy ballplayer I will remember by name is Luke Gillingham, the starting pitcher in game one of today’s doubleheader.
Gillingham has clearly mastered the important military skill of executing orders, because he went out today and obeyed the commands given by pitching coaches since time immemorial: Work fast, throw strikes and get ahead in the count.
The result was an impressive seven-inning one-hitter, as they only play seven innings on doubleheader days. It was the lowest-hit complete game I’ve ever seen at any kind of organized level. (I saw a rain-shortened no-hitter once at the beer-league level, which shouldn’t really count for anything, though it was a fun night.)
Gillingham struck out 11 batters, only got into a jam once, and seemed just about as strong at the end of the game as he was at the beginning; I suspect he could have worked the full nine if he’d absolutely had to. It was a pleasure to watch.
I do not hope I ever see Luke Gillingham on TV explaining why we’re sending battleships to some distant part of the globe.
But if I do, I will think: Y’know, I’ve seen this guy in command somewhere before…