Friday, February 12, 2010

Nick Punto: an inspiration

Role models are complicated. They never fill out role-model applications. There are no role model elections, certificates, or training courses. Role models are unwilling participants in the lives of the young and impressionable.

If you told Nick Punto he was a role model, he would give you his familiar smirk and talk about some humbled aw-shucks-I'm-just-a-baseball-player platitude. But whether he likes it or not, Punto is a role model. Sure, he doesn't have the awards, the fame, or the zillion dollar contract of a superstar. And frankly, he doesn't care about any of that. What he lacks in national accolades, however, he makes up for in the often belittle concept of "hard work."

As cliche as it sounds, that's what Punto does. He puts on his uniform and goes to work day after day. The money is nice, but that's not why Nick Punto plays baseball. Nick Punto plays baseball because Nick Punto plays baseball.

There are times I'm sure he wishes that God blessed him with the homerun-hitting frame of Morneau or the sweet swing of Joe Mauer. But he's over it. Punto has never been one to obsess over personal accomplishments. The success of his team is the only metric that matters to him.

To the delight of cynical saberemathematctioas, his Nobel submission to the greater good of the team is not often quantifiable. So Punto is dismissed as the messiah for the ignorant baseball masses. These saberemathematcuioas, however, are biased toward superficial stats like "vorp" and "war," but overlook real stats like "pitches per plate appearance."

Punto was willing to take the pitches that others weren't. Last year he saw 4.23 pitches per plate appearance. That's more than the stat-conscious Joe Mauer's 4.19. How does Punto see more pitches than superstars like Mauer? One leg at a time. Just like the rest of us.

Nick knows that if he tried, he could hit 30 HRs a year. But does he give in to this temptation? No. He wakes up in the morning, puts on his uniform, and takes pitches so his teammates can study the pitcher and get hits for themselves. The fact is, Punto doesn't care who hits the HR, as long as it's someone on his team. This is a breath of fresh air in the "me,me,me" culture that we live in today.

In Native American legend there is a story about why the Bald Eagle is our national bird. Long ago there was a competition amongst birds to decide which bird could fly the highest and farthest. The winner was to be our young nation's official bird. A swallow knew that the bald eagle was the most capable bird, so it grabbed the eagle's back. The eagle soared to heights previously unimaginable. The swallow proclaimed that it was the bird worthy of the nation's recognition. So, the bald eagle didn't win. It's effort, however, shall never be forgotten, like Nick Punto. In conclusion, Nick Punto is the Bald Eagle of baseball.

Bald Eagle...OF AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1


John said...

Yes. Clearly Nick Punto should not just be glorified, not just starting, but saluted.

(Maybe in between God Bless America and the National Anthem, since we're apparently required to do both at sporting events now.)

haasertime said...

fly high, LNP. Fly high.

They kick people out of Yankee stadium if they don't salute during god bless america.

Topper said...

I've always thought Joe Mauer was just too stat-conscious. Good point.

TwinsWin83 said...

There are so many words I think of when I think of Nick Punto, but inspirational has to be the one that defines him best.

Thank you for the beautiful words in this post Soup. I didnt believe there was anyway I could find more respect and admiration in my heart for Nick Punto, but you have shown me there is still some room in there.

jammyman said...

thanks soup. inspiring.

Karleeee said...

That was beautiful. SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL.