When some think of baseball players, they think of the multi-millionaires on the NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies. They assume that every guy that plays the game makes tons of money. Well maybe in the majors, but most minor leaguers scrap to make it through each year. Like teachers, they don’t get paid in the offseason (or in spring training).
Minor leaguers are at the ballpark each day for at least 8 hours. They have about one day off a month. Single-A players make around $1200 a month and pay the same bills us average Americans do (college loans, credit card bills, car insurance, etc). Plus they pay clubhouse dues (and possible fines). Unlike big leaguers who get close to $200 a day for meals when on the road (and get a high-priced clubhouse spread), minor leaguers get just $20 a day on the road and clubhouse meals usually consist of PB&J. It is far less glamorous in the minors (or lucrative) and that’s what makes this gesture that much more special.
If you’ve ever attended a Wilmington Blue Rocks game and walked near the homeplate seating area, you have probably met Walt, the usher. On a visit recently to Frawley Stadium, Walt told me a feel-good story about the Blue Rocks players and a long-time Blue Rocks fan.
So if you’ve ever attended a Blue Rocks game, you have probably also seen Walt “Sandy” Foraker at a game. I have been attending games since 1995 and he was at every game I ever attended or worked. Mr. Foraker sits in the first row behind homeplate. He wears the same Blue Rocks jersey and hat, the old logo from the 1990’s. Walt told me a snippet of Mr. Foraker’s story: he played high school baseball and was pretty good, but he had a stroke at 29. He now walks with a limp.
He isn’t one of those annoying fans who is loud and obnoxious or always bothering the players. He also isn’t one of those season ticket holders who acts like they know everything or is better than anyone else (not saying all season ticket holders are like that, but every team has them). He arrives early in his jersey and hat and sits in his regular seat, with his headphones on, listening to the radio broadcast. He also regularly has his scorebook in hand. Walt usually gets him chocolate chip cookies when the cookie cart rolls around.
Tim Melville is in his second season in the Blue Rocks rotation. Despite his youth (he’s just 21), he is the veteran in the rotation and has been its anchor. When he’s not on the mound, Melville spends quite a few days sitting behind homeplate, charting pitches.
As Walt told me the story, he had thought that this gesture was all Melville. However Melville explained that it was a team thing, he just was in charge. Mr. Foraker wears his old-school Blue Rocks jersey and hat to every game (something the players took notice of). Over the years, the Blue Rocks have changed their logo (and colors when the Boston Red Sox were affiliated with them for two years) quite a few times since their 1993 inaugural season. Melville approached Walt and asked him about Mr. Foraker (his story and how to spell his last name).
Before pitching his two-hitter which earned him Carolina League Pitcher of the Week honors and at the end of their final homestand in July, Melville gave Walt a bag to give Mr. Foraker. Inside the bag included a current Blue Rocks jersey with FORAKER and the number 30 on the back, along with a new Blue Rocks hat. Apparently that night that Melville asked Walt, he bought the jersey and hat.
When I was at the game a few days after the team’s purchase (the final game of the end of July homestand), Mr. Foraker was proudly wearing his new jersey and hat. I have been there since, and he has been decked out in his new Blue Rocks attire. He approached Melville the last time the Blue Rocks were home to thank him, and that is when Melville explained that it was a team thing, it wasn’t just him.
Nice gesture by a group of young men.