Friday, January 6, 2017

"Achieving The Really Hard Bordering On The Virtually Impossible"

I was originally going to use Steve and his son Cam Bedrosian as my prototype.  Then the hideous tragedy of Debbie Reynolds succumbing the day after daughter Carrie Fisher pushed that familial example to the fore. 

I think I’ll stick with the Bedrosians.  Give the other guys a break.  Not that I was going to say anything bad about them.  I’ll just use somebody else.  Let mother and daughter rest in peace. 

Steve Bedrosian, now retired, was a reliable Major League baseball pitcher, who, while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, won the National League’s “Cy Young Award” as the league’s “Best Pitcher” in 1987. 

Cam Bedrosian recently elevated to the “majors” and appearing to have a promising career ahead of him currently pitches for the Los Angeles Angels.  (It just occurred to me that if you slide across two languages, The Los Angeles Angels is redundant:  “The The Angels Angels.”  I wonder why I never thought of that before.  Or why I bothered thinking about it now?)
You consider that unlikely phenomenon – father and a son, both ascending to the top rung of their highly competitive profession.  And there are a surprising number of these examples, which, at first blush, appears to be an incredible happenstance, akin to two individual family members, both getting struck by lightning.  Unless they were, unfortuitously, holding hands.

It is brutally difficult to make it to the Major Leagues.  There is not a lot of room up there.  Seven hundred and fifty players a year.  Out of billions on the planet.  (It used to be “out of millions in America” but now Major League ballplayers come from everywhere – Australia, Puerto Rico, Korea.  Although not North Korea.  (“They won’t let us play.”)

It’s true that not all the Major League “legacies” are as accomplished as their daddies.  Dale Berra – son of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra – had a pedestrian career.  On the other hand, although Ken Griffey was an excellent ballplayer, his son Ken Jr. was a certifiable superstar.  Same with Bobby and Barry Bonds, although Barry illegally “juiced up”, so who knows?  What I am saying is breeding alone is no “can’t miss” guarantee.

Still, you have to consider genetics.  Especially when, as not infrequently occurs because athletes often run into each other – at gyms, celebrity gatherings, etc. – the progeny’s Mom has exceptional athletic ability as well.  (And look out soon for mother-daughter examples the WNBA.)

How about “connections” as an explanation for the “father-son” phenomenon?  “Hey, (baseball executive he was acquainted with during his playing days), my kid’s pretty good.  You ought to give him a look.” 

And they do.  Which is a substantial step up from, “I’m a chartered accountant and my son can pitch.”  How much would that help?  Beyond doing his kid’s taxes.

Okay, so “leg-upping” heredity and “door-opening” connections.  Of course, they help to get you there.  But then it’s up to the offspring to stick around. 

Case In Point:  Pete Rose Jr.  Who wore the same Number (14) as his Dad but other than that, there were no similarities.  Pete Rose Senior was the all-time Major Leagues “hits king”, with a lifetime 4,256 hits.  Pete Rose Jr., in his brief Major League tenure – 2 hits.  Pete Jr.’s Dad may well have opened a few doors.  But those doors close precipitously when you bat .143.

(A Personal Side Note:  One season, I saw Pete Rose Jr. play for the Minor League South Bend Silver Hawks, of which I was then a part owner.  What I recall most vividly – because Pete Jr.’s father was famously banned forever from baseball because he gambled on the games – was a witty fan yelling from the stands when the lumbering Pete Jr. came up to the plate:  “We’re betting on you, Pete!”  I believe he struck out.)

Going beyond heredity and connections, the predominant reasons explaining the statistical anomaly of father and son both advancing to the Major Leagues, I offer another factor that, to me, is, if not entirely overlooked, then mistakenly underappreciated.

Anyone wishing to make it in a seemingly unattainable “dream enterprise” like baseball (or show business, pulling an example out of the air) will enjoy a hefty advantage experiencing “demystification resulting from longtime personal exposure.”  Call it the “Ho-hum Factor.”

I had, thankfully, no interest in doing this, but say, as a fantasizing youngster, I decided I wanted a career in “bull dogging” in the rodeo. I look around – my father’s in dry goods and my grandfather’s a tailor.

Contrast that biographical happenstance with another young hopeful whose father’s a professional rodeo “bull dogger.”

You see what I’m talking about?  Who’s more likely to wind up wrestling cattle to the ground?  A boy drilled in counting t-shirts by the dozen, or a kid who’s seen his Dad come home, partially gored but with a commemorative belt buckle?

Not because of natural ability.  Not because of connections.  But because they saw their Daddy do it on a regular basis, their career not some unattainable “Hold Grail”, but simply “going to work and doing their job.”  So when it’s your turn – “What do you do?” – “I’m in the ‘Family Business’.”  (And it’s not just in sports.  My cardiologist Nicole’s father was a cardiologist.  It works the same way in hearts.)   

It’s as simple as that.  Having seen it done regularly…

You perceive it as doable.

So you do it.

No guarantee you’ll be successful.

But it’s no “Unreachable Star.”

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