We know the St. Louis Cardinals,
like every other organization, have approaching 200 minor league players under
contract. Under the sun and lights in places like
But, who are these young men living in relative obscurity, many not old enough to drink or rent a car, working miles and miles away from home for what could be the first time? Not who are they as baseball players, but as human beings.
And, at this special time of year, to whom do these players owe special thanks?
Cardinals' assistant general manager John Mozeliak puts it into context. "There is a human side to it that a lot of people don't realize… You don't really see the part where the kids are struggling to get a ride to the ballpark. The day-to-day grind that they go through is really not all that attractive… I always kind of equate it to sending a kid to college when you're in the minor leagues. Your parents have to be supportive of it."
One such player was just added to
the Cardinals' 40-man roster, third baseman Travis Hanson. He grew up in
So, who makes up Hanson's support system? I went to find out.
Earlier this month, I made arrangements to meet a special person at an Arizona Fall League contest. I ended up chatting behind the Surprise Scorpions' dugout with Karen Hanson for the entire game. The petite, dark haired woman looked like any one of a number well-dressed fans in attendance. While that was true enough, that clearly wasn't all.
You see, Karen is Travis' Mom and a whole lot more.
After having driven alone the 170
Here is what Travis himself had to say about his parents. "They've always been there for me. My Dad coached me forever when I was little. Then I had to go play ball in a different part of the area. I am from a small town, so I had to go to the big city to play a better level of ball. So, he had to stop coaching me then, but they always came to my games."
Hanson wishes she could see every game. But she and her husband
provided some of their family background. "We moved here to
170 miles to see a game is nothing. Mom and his fiancé
took a three-day cross-country road trip last season to deliver Travis'
car to him in
Travis agrees. "My Mom has been my vehicle transport system every year. She drives my car out to me wherever I am. They're (his parents) just die-hard fans."
All this helps Hanson concentrate
on playing baseball, which he has been doing quite well, thank you. Travis had
been playing with Team
This is an impressive comeback from some major hardship suffered not all that long ago. During the 2004 season, a severely broken leg on a collision at second base ended Hanson's season and at least temporarily derailed his plans to play that position.
explained her son's long road back. "His injury last year was devastating to us
all, but he has recovered even better than before. His rehab person in
the field, as the Scorpions' opponent warmed up a new pitcher, we both noted his
unorthodox motion and arm angle. Karen volunteered that
is a prime example of the self-sufficiency and maturity Travis has developed.
When I asked Karen about her and
you would expect from a proud Mom, Karen spoke fondly of a number of the players
Travis (and she) have befriended since he joined the Cardinals system. Names
like Reid Gorecki, Brendan Ryan and Rich Scalamandre, Hanson's
it is not always sweetness and light. Karen recounted a dinner following a game
after which Travis' roommate at the time had been released by the Cardinals. Her
mothering instincts must have kicked in as the obviously disappointed player
most needed someone to talk with. Turns out, the release was not only a relief
for him, but also a blessing in disguise. The former player returned to
parted that sunny November day following an 11-9 Scorpions win, Karen called down
to Travis as he was walking off the field and made arrangements to meet at the
car so they could have dinner together. If Travis wouldn't have had Team
Mozeliak had this to say about Hanson. "For people who have been around him for awhile and have known him, I think we've all had some appreciation for him. He is a hard worker. You'll never see anyone outwork him."
One very important reason that Hanson can be such a tireless worker is because Gary, Karen and his fiancé are right behind him. As a result, Travis Hanson has as much to be thankful for off the field as he does on it. And that is a lot!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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