Come Out And Play
By Bill Plaschke
Special to E$PN.com
He bounded, rabbit-like, into the home team clubhouse twelve hours before the first pitch.
As effervescent as champagne.
As calm as a spring flower.
O.C. Original Confidence.
He was picking up three boxes of baseballs.
He was going to sign them all right then and there, and bring them to a local children's hospital, and spend time with the kids.
And then give blood. Twice.
And all this, with an ailing elbow.
His World Series ring shimmered under the flourescent lights like King Arthur's Sword, wrapped in the gentle caress of the Lady of the Lake.
His Sharpie glided softly across the ball's hide as his looping signature appeared as if magic.
And there were no cameras, no announcers, no invasive media vultures.
Just some coaches, some maintenance personnel, and this humble writer, quietly witnessing greatness.
Quietly appreciating this humble multi-millionaire.
Quietly basking in Original Confidence.
Once upon a time, he was the heart and soul of a baseball team for a city that hated baseball.
A city that wanted more to do with homicidal maniacs and gutless beatdowns than America's Pasttime.
Now, that team thrives in our Nation's capital.
Once upon a time, he was traded to a team that epitomizes high-priced mediocrity and futility.
A team desperate for a spark that would turn them from pretenders to contenders.
That team is now the defending World Champions.
In the offseason, he was signed as a replacement of a player that played the game right.
He was brought in to fill the pint-sized hole between second and third.
A huge gaping yaw that once held the keystone of the Los Angeles' Angels 21st century successes.
Los Angeles - the REAL Los Angeles team - is now in first place.
This is how baseball teams should spend money.
Money needs to be spent on things more important than numbers. Ask Paul DePodesta how much his math classes and laptops helped him so far.
There are some things that don't fit into an Excel document.
Mike Scoscia knows this.
Bill Stonemann knows this.
And, most importantly of all, Arte Moreno knows this.
Don't look at O.C.'s average. Don't look at his RBIs or his home runs. And please don't look at that frivolous on base percentage.
Look at this quote from Mickey Hatcher, a man that knows heart: "[T]his guy’s done a great job, and he’s gotten some big hits, moved some runners.”
Look at his stupendous defense, as awe-inspiring as it was back in the days when he was surrounded by unforgiving Canadian Astroturf and falling blocks of concrete.
Look at the misfortunes of his former team, the Money Sox - mired in mediocrity, struggling to hang onto first place, throwing games away against perennial oormats like the Cleveland Indians.
Look at the Nationals and Jim Bowden, a true GM that understands investing in a player like Original Confidence or Christian Guzman means more than what some laser printer can tell you.
And look at the first place Los Angeles Angels, riding high on a cocktail made of moxie, grit, and good old fashioned baseball.
They swing the bat. They run the bases. They catch and throw and have fun, just like little leaguers.
And they're in first place.
All thanks to O.C.
All thanks to Original Confidence.
They stayed in first place without nature boy Vlad Guerrero.
They stayed in first place without up-and-coming superstar Kelvim Escobar.
They stayed in first place without gritty veteran Troy Percival.
Now, they might have to stay in first place without their heart and soul.
Without Original Confidence.
But he'll be there in person, and in spirit.
He will be the #1 Fan.
His Thunder Sticks will be his hands, clapping for that base hit or strike out.
He will be an actual real-life Rally Monkey, throwing feces and spitting raspberries at other teams' attempts to win.
At other teams' attempts to withstand the inevitable.
Watch him take charge of the dugout the same way he takes charge in the field and the batters box.
And thank your lucky stars he's on your team.
Enjoy him while you can, Los Angeles.
Bill Plaschke is in his 18th year as a sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He is also a regular panelist on E$PN's Around The Horn.