Born to Play Ball - Ribbon Cutting
Heading out to the ball game
- By: Holly Huffman
- Bryan College Station Eagle
- March 4, 2008
Famed Los Angeles Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda said he was headed a few weeks ago to baseball spring training where he planned to give a speech when his wife stopped him.
The 20-year manager, who retired in 1996, recalled how his wife simply looked at him and explained that she had come to a sad realization: Lasorda loved the Dodgers and baseball more than he loved her.
Sitting before more than 500 people packed into an auditorium at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Lasorda smiled early Monday evening as he explained that he couldn't really argue with the accusation.
"I said, 'Yeah, but I love you more than I do football and basketball."
The story captured laughs from the audience members, many of whom understood his lifelong passion for the game of baseball.
Lasorda was among a few baseball greats featured in the President's Leadership Forum, hosted by former President George Bush. He was joined on the panel by Houston Astros' all-time home run leader, Jeff Bagwell, Baseball Hall of Fame member, Joe Morgan, Astros' owner, Drayton McLane and moderator, Bob Costas.
The five men discussed their love for the game and favorite career moments during the nearly two-hour forum, which included a question-and-answer session with audience members. The discussion was linked to the formal opening of the library's newest exhibit: "Born to Play Ball." Baseball Hall of Fame President, Dale Petroskey was at the library for the ribbon-cutting.
"I'm thrilled to see this turnout," Bush said, adding that scores of attendees had to be funneled into an overflow room, where they watched the discussion on a television screen.
"All of these people that you'll hear from in a minute are friends, and they are wonderful, wonderful influences in the game of baseball, and we're very fortunate to have them here in College Station," said Bush, who shares a long-time fondness for the game: He played first base and was captain of the team at Yale and is a regular at Astros games.
The mood throughout the forum seemed lighthearted and relaxed, though the friendly rivalry among some was apparent at times. Even Costas jokingly referred to him as "Mr. Nantz"-an accidental reference to fellow sportscaster, Jim Nantz.
Morgan, who spent most of his 22-year career with the Astros and Cincinnati Reds, quickly argued when Costas suggested baseball icon Mickey Mantle was the first to hit a home run in the Astrodome. Morgan played for the Astros in the team's first game at the Astrodome-and hit a home run that very day, he said excitedly.
"The next day Mickey Mantle hits a home run," Morgan said, laughing as he recalled how the question quickly became, "Who's Joe Morgan?"
No one in the audience specifically questioned the panel about the use of steroids and the still-unfolding controversy surrounding former Astros pitcher, Roger Clemens. But one man did ask McLane to discuss the recent congressional investigation into the use of steroids in baseball. Clemens testified during a recent congressional hearing.
McLane, who has owned the Astros for 16 years, said it's important for everyone to work together and focus on moving forward rather than looking backward.
"It's unfortunate Congress selected this as a showcase," McLane said as the audience applauded. "There possibly could have been other things for Congress to focus on in our nation."
During the forum, the five men on the panel discussed with the audience-which included many Aggie coaches and athletes across all sports-team leadership, motivation and the importance of academics in college sports.
Bagwell, who now serves as a special assistant to the Astros' general manager, explained to the crowd that it isn't always the best guy on the team or the one who makes the most money who becomes the leader. Rather, he said, it's the person who always is thinking of the team first. The players naturally will gravitate to that person, he said.
Raised in Connecticut to parents who were avid Boston Red Sox fans, Bagwell said he knew little about the Astros growing up. He knew only, he joked, that he was supposed to hate the New York Yankees. Over time, he said, his passion grew stronger.
"It's something that just gets in your blood," he said of the game. "You can't get enough."