July 4, 2011
Anaheim, CA - On Sunday night one former baseball player returned to a Major League field for the first time in almost 11 years. The LA Angels were hosting the Dodgers on ESPN's Sunday night baseball. The Angels made a comeback late in the game to pick up the victory 3-1. While Angel fans were excited about that comeback there was a much bigger one that they awaited.
With an announced crowd of over 42,000 fans the game ended and about 20,000 remained. Why did those 20,000 people hang around? The Angels were hosting the Steve Garvey ALS Celebrity Softball Charity game. For many seeing former Angels and Dodgers players and a few celebrities would have been exciting enough but tonight there was a bigger story.
That story was the return of, none other than, Jose Canseco. When interviewed by a reporter for Fox Canseco replied, "This is the first time in almost 11 years that I have set foot on a Major League baseball field." Canseco added that it felt good because he was on the field for a great cause, to raise money for ALS (Lou Gherigs Disease). When Canseco was announced to the crowd as an honorary member of the Dodgers many fans yelled out that the Dodgers should actually sign him!
Canseco earlier in the week had tweeted "Come watch me destroy a softball July 3 at Anaheim Stadium. I will show u that even at 47 I am the best power hitter on the planet and steroid free." Canseco, who claims to be steroid free, was scheduled to take part in a HR hitting contest against former Angels legend Tim Salmon. Canseco, who is currently the manager of the North American Leagues (independent) Yuma Scorpions, was first to take some practice hacks. His first few swings looked a bit rusty but that might have been from going from a baseball swing to a softball swing. Earlier this week Jose hit a couple of Home Runs against the Calgary Vipers in NAL action.
About 7 or 8 swings into warm-ups Canseco launched a ball that went at least 480 feet over the bullpens in left field. A few more swings produced some shots that put balls farther than most baseball players had hit them in Anaheim. Tim Salmon stood by and watched and then took some swings of his own and produced nothing close to what Canseco had done. The highlight of the night came when on-field MC and former Angel Rex Hudler picked up Canseco's bat and saw that it said "JUICED" on the barrel. He touched Jose's bicep, made like it was on fired and walked away. Canseco smiled but really didn't seemed that amused by the antics.
The contest started and about 4 swings in Canseco had his first long ball of the contest. Canseco's mammoth blast came late in the first round. This was a shot that came about 10 rows short of the aisle above the left field seats. Time Salmon only hit 2 balls that cleared the outfield wall and they barely made it that far.There was a 2nd round and it was pretty lackluster as Canseco hit two more over the wall. There was a short fence set up at about 160 ft. which gave the guys 1 pt. and then a ball over the big league fence gave them 2 pts. The final score of the contest was 13-9, Canseco won.
As soon as the HR hitting contest was over about half of the remaining 20,000 people left the ballpark. There was still a good crowd in the stands for the celebrity softball game. In his first at bat in the Celebrity softball game Canseco didn't disappoint, he launched a blast just short of the Big League fence in right center but still good enough for a HR in this game.
It was obvious that Jose is comfortable on the diamond and he was having a good time away from the day to day grind of his regular job as manager of the Yuma Scorpions. He was cordially greeted by all the former players but did not have much interaction with anyone during the game.
In a way you feel bad for Canseco because he is responsible for cleaning up baseball and in my eyes making it a better game. However he also broke the cardinal rule in baseball which is what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. Break that rule and your life in baseball is basically over. Especially when it is something that can change the course of players making or not making the Hall of Fame, including himself!
John Witt is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.