June 6, 2013. Commissioner Bud Selig heads to the podium at MLB Draft Headquarters. “With the 33rd and final pick of the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select, Ian Clarkin, left handed pitcher, San Diego, California.” With that, the camera pans to the family section (designed ingeniously like a dugout) and out comes Clarkin. He removes his sports coat and dons for the first time his uniform with the emblematic New York Yankee logo on his chest. Hugs from family and the obligatory photo with the Commish follow.
The MLB Network, who was providing live coverage, had pre-recorded video “packages” for many of the top draft prospects. Each “package” was comprised of a video of the player, both game coverage as well as interview content. For Clarkin, there was a clip in his interview where he described his happiest baseball moment. And here is where the fun began.
Clarkin revealed that his favorite baseball moment growing up was when Luis Gonzalez hit a bloop single over the head of Derek Jeter for the World Series winning run in 2001. Clarkin said in the interview “I cannot stand the Yankees. so I was actually in tears, I was so happy.” He was pulling for the D-Backs at a time in which most of the country was supporting the otherwise hated Yankees because of 9/11. And here he was, being drafted in the first round by the Damn Yankees. The thought must have crossed his mind that he might soon be introduced to Mariano Rivera, whose 9th inning blown save in that same game 7 of the 2001 World Series is one of the few blemishes on his Hall of Fame career.
There is nothing unusual about the fickle nature of fans based upon the team jersey of a given player. This is best exemplified by fans of the Red Sox and Yankees, baseball’s most celebrated rivalry ever since Babe Ruth was traded/sold from the Red Sox to the Yankees on December 26, 1919. Generations later and consistent with the reciprocal disdain, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon were literally reviled by Yankee die hards until each migrated from Boston to New York during their careers. They soon became part of the Yankee family. The big difference between them and Clarkin is that none of these players were ever quoted as saying that they hated the team that they were now joining.
Clarkin’s father is also known to be a Yankee hater. But many parents have had to reassess their allegiances based upon the career path of their children. Take, for example, Archie Manning, who had established a legacy at Ole Miss. There is even a street named after him. When his son, Peyton, had to select a college, he chose SEC rival Tennessee. “Blasphemy” shouted the Ole Miss faithful! Yet I am fairly certain that during Peyton’s years at the University of Tennessee, Archie never rooted against the Vols, even as Peyton competed against Archie’s Ole Miss (which, by the way, Tennessee won 41-3 in 1996 and 31-17 in 1997).
Assume Clarkin one day pitches at the major league level for the Yankees. I am willing to bet the farm that Clarkin will find it to be a dream come true rather than a nightmare wearing the Yankee pinstripes. And I will double down on that bet and predict that his dad will be seated in the Yankee family section behind home plate, donning his own Yankee hat and a grin from ear to ear, rooting for the team that he spent a lifetime despising.