A disappointed 12-year old takes aim

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A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from a 12-year-old kid looking for advice about how to become a sports writer. It’s hard to offer career wisdom to someone so young, so I said little and asked Joe Yalowitz whether he’d like to write something for this blog. He accepted—and the work speaks for itself. I might not be a smart man, but I know talent when I see it. This boy’s got some skillz …

Alex Rodriguez has been the single most influential human being in my childhood. No, not my father, not my mother, not a teacher, but someone I have never once said a word to. Oh, did I mention that all of this was before February 7, 2009?

Every time Alex steps up to the plate I can’t help but think of that fateful day. Even now, as I sit at my computer, my eyes start to water. Most of you will think, it’s a game. He’s a player. I can’t tell you how wrong you are. For years, I have loved him. Mimicked his batting stance. I dreamed of being Alex Rodriguez. My friend would tell me he was on steroids, but not once did I actually process that thought. Alex Rodriguez, along with hundreds, maybe thousands, is a cheater. Modern-day baseball is telling me to juice.

The very first pitch of Alex Rodriguez’s 2009 season came and went. Into the right field bleachers of Camden Yards. The best home run hitter of all time was making his comeback. I love Alex for that, but I hate him for giving me false hope. When he breaks the all-time home run record in 2014 (and yes, he will), it will be tainted. I’ve gone over this a million times. I want to believe soooooo badly that it won’t, but whom am I fooling? Alex took steroids throughout the best home run stretch of his life. You can argue, of course. It wasn’t just the hitters on the good stuff, it was the pitchers too. But here is the thing: Home runs are an achievement of strength, for you have to hit the ball a certain distance and height. If you have a substance in your body that enables you to have more strength, than it is, without a doubt, tainted. And let’s not forget, this is a home run record.

Now that I am getting older, I can begin to see the bad in baseball. Recently Mark McGwire said, “I wish I didn’t play in the steroid era.” Mark, you, along with hundreds of others, are the steroids era. Baseball is, and has been, my passion. Playing, watching, even writing.

Now, I’m not so sure.

17 thoughts on “A disappointed 12-year old takes aim”

  1. Jim – The kid is 12 years old! I think he did an excellent job. It is not easy to realize that your idols have character flaws. If only the game had the purity of this young writer.

  2. The kid was good. Had a great last line. Genuine. And in that one line he encapsulated what all young sports writers are wrestling with: the anxiety over moving forward with their depressed, hollowed dreams.

    Some words for the kid: Don’t stop writing. Don’t stop watching baseball. It will only get better. Forget about some of the players for a second. Strip it down. What you’re left with is the sport. The game. Baseball. It’s a great game. The best. You wouldn’t be writing for Mark McGwire. You’d be writing for the game. The game will never cheat you.

  3. Joe, you did a phenomenal job. That’s a heck of a piece for someone your age. It’s not too shabby for any age, really. You wrote from the gut and with simplicity and supported your points well.
    You have talent.
    The bad news is, it’s a tough time for writers in this business and the reality is that you should make sure you explore all options as you grow up because in many ways it is a thankless job. (The silly ranting of Jim is one example, but I’m sure you’re already mature enough to tune him out and realize his “passion” for the game does not hold as much depth as yours. More importantly, as an adult you’ll need to see if this career can really earn you the type of living you would like. It doesn’t always pay well.)
    That said, the good news is right now you are not an adult and you have plenty of time to see if things improve and you could eventually build a career. I have no doubt that talent wise you could. You just may have to look at the long haul and decide if you want to at some point. But that’s for another day.
    Fantastic job, buddy. Keep writing thoughtful, reflective stuff, if only for yourself and the people you care about right now. And if you ever doubt yourself — which you most likely will because that’s part of the package with almost any writer who is any good — just remember you have talent.

  4. Joe, one more thing. Don’t let the A-Rods of the world be your greatest influence. That’s the lesson you seem to be learning and it’s a good one. As someone else on here said, appreciate the game more than the players because it won’t cheat. But also, I imagine your parents have been pretty influential or else you wouldn’t have been so disappointed in A-Rod and the steroid era.

  5. I think simple “drug problems” are different than the performance boost that goes along with “steroids”. Hell, some of us older folks have the same problems with the corruption of the national pastime that this kid has. He did a fine job. Give him a break.

  6. In related news, Jim also hates puppies.

    Nice job, Joe. I was a little older than you when McGwire broke the record and even as a Yankee fan, I was rooting hard for Mac. Even knowing all these years (and assuming in ’98) that he was on something, I still found myself a little sad after his interview last week because I remembered how hard we all cheered him when I was your age.

    You don’t have to respect A-Rod or think of him as a role model to appreciate his brilliance on the field. In fact, it’s better if you don’t.

  7. Wow. I just read through all of these. Thank you guys for giving me that kind of support. Jim- I don’t care if I’m 12 or 25. Your just insecure your 45 year-old baseball league kicked you out for steroids.

  8. Pay no attention to Jim and comment number 1. It’s pretty clear Jim isn’t much of a writer himself, as he cannot distinguish between a sentence fragment (“Along with a lot of other bad stuff.”)and an actual sentence.

  9. I was so surprised when I read this! I was thinking before I read it, “A 12 year old, how good could it be?” But this kid has talent and he should definitely stick to writing. I’m not the biggest sports fan in the world, and I don’t know much about baseball, but I know when someone has a passion for something and I definitely see passion here.

  10. Joe, I am sitting here with my 10 year old son,Jakob, and we are both inspired by your piece, and proud of what you wrote. I know that you are 12, but if I didn’t I am not sure that I would believe that such a beautiful piece could be written by such a young kid. Great passion, hope you never loose it.

  11. infact, i am 11 years old and in joes grade. We are the best of friends and when i went to one of his baseball games i saw a little Alex in the batters box. Joe is a great baseball player and i think this is because of the influence set by A-rod. Joe, its great to have dreams like these and you have clearly set your mind to this and it has paid off. Keep writing and don’t listen to put-downs like jim, Joe. You are a great writer and this peice is fantastic.

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