Baseball hero Sammy Sosa pops a cork

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    By Christopher Seifert

    Sammy, say it ain”t so.

    As I recently perused my mission pictures, I stopped at one that”s always given me goose bumps. In the photo, my companion is sitting on the porch of our cement home in a dilapidated neighborhood called Pantoja, waiting patiently as an eager, young Dominican limpia bota shines his shoes.

    The photograph captures a simple moment from a simple country. But, for me, there is undeniable beauty to that simplicity. Sammy Sosa, the great Major League slugger, was one of those limpia botas once.

    And look where a silly dream took him.

    I wouldn”t be surprised if the boy in my photograph lived in a flimsy house built of paint cans, but who can say where a dream might one day take him as well.

    You just never know.

    The truth of the matter is, I”ve always hated baseball. It”s a so-called “thinking man”s” sport, which probably just goes to show I”m not necessarily much of a “thinking man.”

    But what I can”t hate are things like passion and grace and skill.

    In two years, I never got tired of watching bare-footed kids with sticks hit bottle caps into invisible stands and then run the bases on unpaved streets.

    Likewise, I never tired of watching middle-aged men – who must have known their shot at the Big Leagues had long since evaporated – play under the lights of their city”s ballpark on muggy summer evenings.

    Miraculously, something about those nights made worn-out farmers and construction workers 10 years old again.

    It was then I knew baseball isn”t our pastime; it belongs to them.

    So, to me, Sammy Sosa stands for something just like that little limpia bota stood for something – their destinies inexplicably intertwined.

    The fearlessly outspoken Charles Barkley once said athletes aren”t role models – they shouldn”t have to be. Well, “Sir”Charles, I couldn”t disagree more.

    How many world-class performers can we really admire for something more than their physical gifts? Far too few, I”m afraid. They give us a one-dimensional view of greatness.

    The scariest part about this corked bat incident is, like it or not, we”re all heroes to someone, somehow – and that”s a staggering responsibility.

    One misstep, or even the appearance of one, can do more damage than we want to imagine.

    In all likelihood, it was an innocent mistake on Sammy”s part. Seventy bats came out clean. Sammy simply picked up the wrong one last week.

    Trouble is, we”ll never know for sure, and bare-footed, starry-eyed kids deserve the luxury of not having to wonder.

    That”s why an eight-game suspension hardly does this thing justice. Maybe nothing does.

    Yes, forgive and forget, but I”m not sure it”s that simple.

    He can say it all he wants. Saying it, however, may not be enough to pick up all the pieces.

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