Three years ago I was up in College at Chico State University. A smaller DII school located about 75 miles north of Sacramento, Chico has no college football program, but does have a local affiliation with the IBL (Independent Baseball League). At the time, I was a public relations major under the school of Journalism, with a lot of focus of finding my way into a sports organization upon graduation. The only internships in sports - as limited as they were in Chico - was to write press releases and game-day notes for the Chico Outlaws.
The IBL consists of a group of ex college-kids trying to get noticed by scouts, and actually has some ex-MLB players rehabilitating or trying to get another breath of fresh air. The IBL is not part of the MLB, but is its own Independent league featuring a handful of teams across the state of California. Most noteworthy was the team from San Diego, the SurfDogs.
San Diego featured two ex-MLB superstars back in 2007. Former bash-brother Jose Canseco and HOF'r Rickey Henderson played right and left field respectively. As a die-hard Oakland Athletics fan, to hear the news that I was going to cover and write the story on these two athletes, I was very excited for the opportunity. In fact, I was jazzed that I could meet one of my childhood heros in Henderson.
The game was quick, and to be honest Henderson didn't do anything at the plate. I do remember Jose Canseco hitting the ball about 450ft over the center field fence, hitting the crap out of the ball onto the nearby train tracks. Chico lost to San Diego that day. I actually tried to inteview either of the two of these guys, but they had dissapeared into the clubhouse and I had no access to get in.
Bummed and rejected, I heard rumors that Henderson was going to make an appearance at a well-known Chico bar called Madison Bear Gardens (aka The Bear). The place is sweet. If anything, I was going to see if I could at least shake Rickey's hand, maybe have him sign my 1989 World Series Champion pennant.
San Diego was in Chico for a two-game series, wrapping up the North Coast trip with a day-game the next day. Rickey and Jose would be back on the field, but I knew I wouldn't get much love from them if I tried to get interviews.
The evening arose, I was getting really pumped up for the chance to meet THE Rickey Henderson. I grabbed the pennant, and I headed to the Bear. The evening wore on - no Rickey. I had several drinks to calm the nerves and before I knew it, the clock read midnight.
All of a sudden, this short, stouty man walked in, boasting a flat-top and jeans way too small for this guy's massive thighs. There he was - Rickey was at the Bear. With two REALLY younger ladies by his side, I watched as several people went over to get a glimpse of the man with all the SB records. Once the crowd cleared and he was hanging with minimal people, I knew that the chance to meet him was then and now.
I walked over to him, he glared at me. I was nervous. It was my childhood hero! I pushed the penant to my side and walked up to right where he was standing.
"Mr. Henderson. My name is Kyle and I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed rooting for you," I explained. "Ever since I was born and young enough to understand the game, you have been my inspiration in the sport of Baseball."
I got no response for a few seconds. It was really ackward. He brushed the flat-top once, picked up the glass he was consuming and smiled at me. I couldn't believe what came out of his mouth afterwards.
"Why don't you buy Rickey a drink," he said. "Rickey is thirsty and could use another drink."
Wow. I thought at that point he was joking, but realistically I knew he was dead serious. The Stolen Base leader, career leadoff HR leader, and all-time single season stolen base leader is asking some poor college student to fund his booze.
I was pissed off. I was upset at my childhood hero. I could barely afford my own boozing habits, let alone get brushed away for a handshake and told to buy this man a drink.
"Kyle doesn't want to buy Rickey a drink," I said. "Kyle wants Rickey's signature and a handshake."
He paused, a little confused at my bitter response. I held out my sharpie and pennant of the A's World Series Championship in 1989. He paused again, took the pen, and signed the pennant. "Your welcome," said Rickey. "Rickey needs to get another drink right now."
Without the handshake from Henderson, I smiled at his comment and walked away feeling stupid for even trying to conversate with him. I was a little sad, but laughed a little at how the man would speak. It was an eye-opening experience!
Today marked the day that Rickey Henderson was unanimously voted into baseball's prestigious Hall of Fame. The man had a career, the numbers don't lie. Too bad he is such a prick, as he responds using third-person linguistics referencing himself as "Rickey."
His career in the IBL is long over. He is now enshrined in the elite club known as the Hall of Fame. I was thinking about this situation when Henderson got voted in with a majority of votes. Smiling, I thought about the members who didn't vote for him. Maybe they didn't want to buy Rickey a drink either.
Rickey has made several millions of dollars over the span of his career. He has won titles, championships and MVP's. The least the man could have done was shake my hand, or even offer me a drink. He has tarnashed his reputation in my mind as an arrogant ball player whom probably doesn't have a lot of friends.
I never bought Rickey that drink, and if he asked again, I wouldn't either. Congrats to him for making it to the Hall, as I hope future players who break his records will walk with them a little more kuth, integrity and respect.