Little boy…in a baseball hat
That’s the opening from Kenny Rogers’s song, “The Greatest.” My son Gabe played baseball for two seasons (2000 and 2001) at Sacramento City College. Union Stadium sits in the heart of the Sac City campus. It is a fine stone and steel structure with a beautiful green diamond, and a public address system capable of breaking your eardrums.
As loyal parents and avid baseball fans, Barbara and I attended every home game, arriving early to get good seats and enjoy the pregame activities. The students who manned the enclosed press box played an eclectic mix of music as we waited for games to begin. The playlist included the usual rock anthems, including of course, John Fogerty’s “Centerfield,” but always seemed to conclude with Kenny’s “The Greatest.”
The song tells a universal story about childhood belief and dreams and unshakable confidence. The little boy throws the ball up into the air, swings and misses three times. Strike three. Then his momma calls him in for supper. The closing line says it all:
I am the greatest…that is a fact
But even I didn’t know…I could pitch like that.
Many times that song put a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. Now Kenny Rogers is gone. When most folks hear his name, they will likely think of “The Gambler,” or “Lucille,” or maybe his duets with Dolly Parton. Not me. I’ll be thinking of sunny days at Union Stadium and that little boy in a baseball hat.
Rest in peace, Kenny.