TheThrill is gone

It's not like it was a secret. Most Cattracks readers already knew my true identity. Like the rest of you I started as a message board frequenter and chose a unique handle that was both representative of my life and, at the same time, a cover of sorts instead of using my real name. "The Thrill" is signing off from this point forward and will instead be known as...

...Ben Hansen. Yep, Greg's son; oldest son, as a matter of fact. Not that it makes a bit of difference, though, he does his thing and I do mine here for Doug and Brad.

In fact, I guess the only real reason why I'm "outting" myself here is because I got tired of friends of mine e-mailing me and constantly referring to me as "Thrill" instead of Ben. I spent the first 24 years of my life building an identity and it was quickly being replaced by an alter-ego that doubles as an adjective. I even introduced myself to girls at a Los Gatos bar as "Thrill" a few weeks ago. When I realized I was doing the same thing "Sting" has been doing for nearly two decades, that's when I knew I needed professional help.

TheThrill22 itself can be traced to one thing (one person, actually): Will Clark. I grew up in awe of the former San Francisco Giants' All-Star. Pops Hansen raised my two younger brothers (Jake, 23 and Tyler, 21) and I as baseball fans and we quickly found players that turned out to be lifelong favorites of ours. With our dad being about the biggest Mickey Mantle fan this side of bar owners in NYC in the 50's and 60's, we had a lot to live up to.

Will Clark was everything to me when I was growing up. If he hit a home run one day there was literally nothing that could get me down. However, if he took the collar and the Giants lost, I was in a world of hurt. Fortunately for my brothers they chose favorite players that were consistently great: Jake's guy was Nolan Ryan and Ty's remains Ken Griffey DL, whoops, I mean Jr.

When Will retired on November 2, 2000, I was devastated. I was in Spokane, Washington at the time with my longtime girlfriend and all I could think about was, "what am I going to do now that Will's gone?"

Will Clark had a great career and a wonderful final season for the St. Louis Cardinals but decided to bow out on his terms. Thinking of that inspired me to do the same thing today, only my terms doesn't mean that I'm retiring (I just turned 25 on Thursday, I've still got 40 years). Instead, I'm just going to be me now and do it my way. It pretty much came time for me to honor my dad's name instead of my favorite baseball player's.

I played golf with my dad today and I realized how proud I am to be his son. He's a very quiet man but extremely intelligent and he is still an athlete even at the ripe old age of 206. He is in his fifties now and yet he still runs five miles a day, swims a mile afterwards and played competitive baseball until just a few years ago.

Other than World War II books by Stephen Ambrose, his real passion in life is golf, for now anyway. He has gone from a triple-digit hacker to an 8-10 handicap in less than a year and the reason for that improvement is the same reason why he is so good at what he does for a living: he works harder than everyone else.

So I guess what this whole thing amounts to is that "The Thrill is gone" and Ben Hansen has taken his place. I'm proud to be my dad's son and changing my byline is the least I could do to honor his name. I'll still do the same work here of course, getting the latest news from America's top recruits, writing columns, breaking down games and trying to add some humor in the not-so-funny-anymore sports world.

Thus ends the Thrill Era. The book closes on Will Clark and even though I may need my main man "NorCalCat" to help me get through this, I think both Major League Baseball and I will be all right. To quote a great American rock singer, "it's all the same, only the names will change".

Oh, by the way, I had a career-best 83 while pops ("Old Man River") duffed his way to an 87. So much for hard work paying off, huh? The Star's Charles Durrenberger smacked him around a little, too with a life-altering 77.

Because he lost to me today at Dell Urich, my dad has agreed to change his name to "PinstripeMickey7" while I take over the Hansen tag.

And that's just fine with me.

{Ben Hansen can be reached at

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