All-Stars could learn a thing or two from Rod Carew

Jul 16 2011 - 6:46pm

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(STEVE GRIFFIN/The Associated Press) International League All-Stars wait for the introductions during the Triple-A All-Star game at Spring Mobile Ballpark in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
(STEVE GRIFFIN/The Associated Press) International League All-Stars wait for the introductions during the Triple-A All-Star game at Spring Mobile Ballpark in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Whatever Rod Carew is selling, I'm buying.

After all, the man is a Hall of Fame baseball player from my own personal golden age, which is to say he was a star several years ago when I was first introduced to the game.

I remember him playing for the Minnesota Twins and later the California Angels. As a little leaguer I tried to imitate his unique batting stance and he captured my attention with his "small ball" style of play.

Other players' bubblegum cards found their way onto my bicycle spokes (if you're not old enough to get that reference, go ask you father) but never Carew's. His stayed in the shoebox along with a select few, like George Brett, Joe Morgan, Jim Rice, Robin Yount, Jim Palmer and Ferguson Jenkins.

But enough about my childhood ...

Last week, as part of the Triple-A All-Star Game festivities in Salt Lake City, Carew spoke at a banquet at EnergySolutions Arena. Naturally, when I heard he was going to speak, I made plans to meet him.

He did not disappoint.

"I like minor league baseball, I like seeing the young players coming up," he said.

Carew spoke to some of those young players Wednesday afternoon, then took in the Triple-A All-Star Game later that night. I saw him in the pressbox before the game and noticed the gleam in his eye as he watched players warming up on the field.

It was obvious he wasn't there just to give a speech and hightail it out of town afterward. No, it was clear he genuinely cared about the game. He also made it clear he wanted those young players to care about the game, too.

He said he didn't think the game has changed all that much from when he played in the late 1960s, '70s and into the '80s.

The game hasn't changed, but perhaps the players have.

"The players have gotten bigger, gotten stronger," he said. "I think it's become more of a dollars game and it's sad to see."

Carew said he doesn't have a problem with players making as much money as they can, and I think most baseball fans would agree. But he also said he wants today's young players to love, respect and study the history of the game.

I think most fans would agree with him there, too.

"Learn about the people who have gotten you to this point," he said. "That's important."

Hopefully, the young players in Salt Lake last week took notice of Carew himself. Sadly, I wouldn't be surprised to learn some didn't even know his name or his history. But I'd like to think they're now familiar with his legacy.

Carew's words last week were directed toward minor league ballplayers, but the truth of it is, they also apply to today's big leaguers.

In particular, I liked what he said about the importance of being an All-Star.

"Every time you make an All-Star team you should be proud and you should be honored you were elected to the team," he said. "It's a tremendous honor."

It certainly is, and it's one that wasn't lost on Russ Canzler, the star of last week's Triple-A affair.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," said Canzler, whose three-run homer was the difference in the game.

Here's hoping Canzler, like Carew, never loses that attitude.

The trouble is, at the Major League level, it's just too easy for a player to beg off his All-Star responsibilities in favor of a three-day holiday.

Ironically, when asked which big leaguers he enjoys watching today, Carew specifically mentioned Yankees star Derek Jeter.

Jeter is indeed a worthy role model for young fans, even for those who despise the pinstripes. But after being elected by the fans to start last week's MLB All-Star game, he skipped the event all together. He didn't even bother to show up and go through the obligatory introductions.

Unfortunately, on the heels of his monumental 3,000th career hit, Jeter gets an error for butchering his All-Star selection.

It's a pity, too, because his brilliant career has been filled with excellent decisions, which is why he'll someday be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, just like the great Rod Carew.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247

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