Houston/Larry Dierker Chapter meeting recap – 12/10/2012

Here’s Bill McCurdy’s recap of the Larry Dierker Chapter meeting of December 10, 2012, in Houston, Texas:

On a night when most Houston sports fans were out there falling off a cliff with the football team we know locally as the Houston Texans, 19 of us completely, or mainly, baseball souls were downtown at the Inn at the Ballpark, lapping up the diamond-shining thoughts of Gary Gaetti, the manager of the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters. Gaetti, an excellent former major leaguer, is also a former batting coach for the Houston Astros and a passionate baseball mind.

How good was he? Gaetti finished his 20-season (1981-2000) big league career with 360 home runs, just one shy of the 361 HR put on the books by a fellow named Joe DiMaggio. He also is one of the few men in history to have homered in his first two post-season times at bat in the major leagues – after first homering in his very first major league time at bat and going on from there to collect the most career home runs (360) among all other members of that select group. And, as Mike McCroskey also points out in an additional comment below, Gary Gaetti was only ejected from one MLB game over the course of his 20-year career – and that one sprang from the thumb of rookie umpire Phil Cuzzi in 1999. (Thanks for the important corrections and contributions, Mr. McCroskey!)

More than anything, Gary Gaetti is a bright, positive, strong baseball mind and the man who now plies his many gifts and skills to the job of directing young men who play the game out of love for the sport and in the abiding hope that independent baseball will become their gateway to a career in the professional game.

Last year was the maiden voyage season of the Houston suburbs’ Sugar Land Skeeters, as it was for their mentor and field manager, Gary Gaetti. The product at Constellation Field is off to a shining start for families looking for an enjoyable and entertaining way to involve themselves in the game.

As a baseball town, Gaetti rates Houston as one of the best at the grass root level. “From the standpoint of playing and instructional opportunities, and family support for same, the greater Houston area is either stronger, or as strong, as any other city in the country. People in this town know their baseball – and far beyond the credit they get for it nationally.” Gaetti doesn’t mince words in his evaluation of Houston as a baseball town.

As an independent league manager, Gaetti wants players who are capable of converting their low-paying opportunities in independent league ball into a contract with one of the big league clubs. Even though you get the impression that Gaetti the Competitor has come to realize from experience that a club at this level also needs a certain number of players whose abilities and ages make them less vulnerable to being yanked up from the Skeeters’ roster in the middle of a pennant race, that Gary the Man still prefers the guys who can turn the experience into a stepping-stone to bigger, greener pastures for themselves.

How else could he feel? Spend the evening with this guy and you come away convinced that he doesn’t spend time on things that are just about money. The man comes across as a strong, likeable teacher, the kind of guy who was born to be here as both a mentor to the young and a guardian of all the game stands for.

In a later portion of tonight’s program, SABR member Mike McCroskey gave us an excellent report on a book about the early years of baseball, going through the way the general rules and styles of play came to be. As I watched Gary Gaetti during the presentation, he was reading the handout on the 1845 Cartwright Rules and soaking up everything that McCroskey had to say. That’s passion in motion. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Gary Gaetti admittedly came to speak tonight with a very unclear sense of how he had come to even make the commitment. He says he knew nothing of SABR before tonight, other than the fact that the group had this relentless guy named Bob Dorrill who kept calling him to come speak.

Gary Gaetti left tonight on the heels of spirited interaction with our questions and comments. He even arrived in time to have a beer with some of us as we were breaking bread in the hotel dining lobby. Gary left with a much better feel for who we are and a nodding informal agreement to see us again down the road.

Thank you again for being the persistent relentless out-reaching arm of SABR, Bob Dorrill! You just got us a new and valued friend, I think.

SABR DAY, USA. Later in the evening, Mark Rejmaniak reported on local plans for the annual observance of SABR day. Our Houston SABR meeting will be held on Saturday, January 26, 2013, from 1-4 PM, at the Home Plate Bar & Grill on Texas Avenue, just across the street from Minute Maid Park. We hope everyone will make an effort to join us that day. We will have a private room and some plan for book exchanges and maybe even a DVD presentation – and that’s all to the good of the delicious ballpark food and drinks that are available at “HP.”

Read the full recap here: http://bill37mccurdy.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/gary-gaetti-is-bright-christmas-light-for-sabr/

For more information on the Larry Dierker Chapter, visit the chapter website at SABRHouston.org.