What I Learned From MLB Legend Don Baylor

DonBaylor3What I Learned from MLB Legend Don Baylor.

Don Baylor is a Major League Baseball Coach and former MLB Baseball player and manager. During his 19 seasons in the major leagues, Baylor was a power hitter known for crowding the plate. He was a first baseman, left fielder and DH. He played for 6 different American League teams, primarily the Baltimore Orioles, and CA Angels, but he also played for the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox.   He later managed the expansion Colorado Rockies for 6 years and the Chicago Cubs for three seasons.

I met Don and Becky through my husband in 2006 and their initial connection was through baseball since Weston was also a professional baseball player, a pitcher, for 10 years.

The Baylor’s are now solidified in “my Top 10 nicest, kindest people I will ever meet category.” Years ago, Weston and I were on our way to Palm Springs for business, and we called them to see if they were available to meet for dinner.

We met them at their home and I remember being in awe of this amazing trophy case, his photos with United States Presidents at the White House and all the other baseball memorabilia. I also recall how Becky was like a walking baseball encyclopedia and I just sat there listening to the these three baseball gurus chat about the sport they played and loved that was so very much a part of their lives. It was impressive.   I was the outsider in this conversation, but a big fan of the Boston Red Sox (and my Dad could not believe I was going to hang out with Boston’s Don Baylor!).

We decided to go golfing literally in their back yard, which just happened to be the private Arnold Palmer PGA West Course in La Quinta, CA. The setting was amazing and riding around the course with the legendary Don Baylor was a treat. But more impressive was how this power hitter was really the kindest, most down to earth “gentlemen”. To this day, we talk about the “thing” he taught us — but he didn’t even realize he was teaching us at the time.

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I casually mentioned on the golf course that I wanted to get a visor in the pro shop so I would have it as a memory of being there. I said it once probably on the 2nd hole. We started playing late in the afternoon and we were on a mission to get all 18 holes in even though it started to get colder and darker. BRRRR! We finished the round and went in the clubhouse, but we couldn’t figure out where Don went. We ordered drinks and then about 10 minutes later Don comes back….with a bag that he gives to me, and inside is a PGA West visor.   Are you kidding me? He was listening? To something I said 4 hours earlier?

Now we go to this Mexican restaurant for the “best” margaritas in the desert. We started talking about our kids, my son Chasen who was starting to play baseball, and of course, my beloved Red Sox. At one point I was on the phone with Chasen. I handed the phone to Don so he could say hello. He talked to him and told him to keep working hard and it will pay off…among other little tidbits. It was a very cool moment for a young kid who really had no idea then the advice he was being given and who was actually delivering it.   The night was great, the company was fantastic, and it’s an experience and memories we will have forever.   But it didn’t end after we left Palm Springs.

Approximately 2 weeks later, I got a big yellow envelope in the mail with the Baylor’s return address on it and the envelope was addressed to my son Chasen (who he’d never met).   Inside were 7 of his baseball cards from the teams he played on and an 8 X 10 photograph. Each card was autographed and the larger photo was a picture of Don swinging at the plate in a “Red Sox Uniform” with this caption,

To Chasen,

 My Best To You Always!

Keep Working Hard. It Will Pay Off!

 Your Friend,

 Don Baylor

 1979 AL MVP

 

This is now proudly framed in our home.

But the message here is Don Baylor listened to the little things we said and he showed us with his actions that he was present and truly cared about us. It was those small gestures that made the biggest impact. That’s what he taught us and he did it with his actions, not his words.  It was the way he made us feel.

Don is a famous legendary athlete and his legacy is firmly cemented in the history books. But how many people like me have a similar story like this to share about Don and Becky Baylor?  I have a feeling there are many.  It’s just an endless validation of their amazing character.   It will be an experience we will always remember and we will always talk about.

Gina

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