I've been thinking a lot about the Langston Hughes poem "A Dream Deferred" since last Thursday. A young man whom I call my "godson" received a shocking blow, and his dreams may be dead for the immediate future.
This kid has been a baseball phenom since he could walk. Folks at the major league level (I'm talking professional baseball here, folks) have known about him since he was about eleven years old. One of the scouts for a major league team has told him since pre-teen days, "You don't need an agent. You don't need an agent. You don't need an agent."
This time last year, that same guy said, "Get an agent."
You would have to know this kid and his family to appreciate this story fully. They are humble (as in not arrogant, not as in poor), down-to-earth, REAL people.
Every single team from MLB has sent a representative to their home at least once. Some have made multiple visits. The kid has also been offered a wowser of a scholarship at one of our state's universities (but not my alma mater).
When the pros came a-calling, his parents said, "This is kind of fun, but there's always college." As it became more and more real, they still said, "He's got a college scholarship waiting for him." Never once did I hear them brag about his accomplishments, his being so heavily recruited, the visits from big-whigs. These aren't bragging people.
He's not the stereotypical jock either. This is the kid who took calculus his senior year in high school as an ELECTIVE. He could very easily have taken an easier math (or a weightlifting class) during spring semester of his final baseball season.
Last Wednesday, the kid tore whatever ligament behind the elbow requires major league pitchers to have Tommy John surgery. He's a catcher. It makes no sense at all, a high school player, let alone a catcher, to have this kind of injury.
And the draft is about eight weeks away.
They had to have a conference call with a lot of important people to let them know about the injury and impending surgery. They had to let them know that the kid is probably off the table as far as the major league draft is concerned.
What a heartbreak.
I know all the platitudes, and I'm sure his parents have heard them plenty in the past week.
"He's young; he'll recover quickly."
"There's always college."
"It's amazing what they can do these days."
"It could have been much worse."
"The recovery period is only about eight months."
It still sucks.
Not only is his dream of playing professional baseball dead (for now), but the rest of his senior year as well. His team is headed to the playoffs, but he won't be behind the plate.
The whole thing sucks, but especially the timing. This injury happened Wednesday night. On Tuesday, he had received a package via UPS from Major League Baseball. In it was a drug test kit that they only send to the players projected to go in the top four rounds of the draft. That's the 200 best players IN THE COUNTRY. And he is one of them.
He's just a good kid.
There are still all kinds of possibilities. One team that has shown a tremendous amount of interest also happens to have 12 picks in the first four rounds of the draft. (And that exhausts my knowledge of how the draft works.) His "advisor" (because he's not technically allowed to have an agent yet) said there's a possibility that a team might still take him, even with his injury. But that possibility is slim.
I'm trying to look on the positive side. Worst case scenario is that he goes to college. For free. And he'll be ready to play his freshman season. Because of some quirky rules, once he starts college the pros can't touch him until after his junior year. (I know, I know, it makes no sense to me either. They can take them straight out of high school, but they they have to wait until after the junior year of college.) So maybe he plays THREE years. Heals nicely. And the majors will probably still be interested in him.
It still sucks. Not just because his mother is my best friend and I wanted to get him to autograph the cover of Sports Illustrated when he appeared on it.
Because he's just a good kid.
Good-looking, smart, well-mannered, sincere, and just downright nice.
With all due respect to Langston Hughes, I hope a dream deferred neither festers nor explodes. I hope it gets watered, tended with loving care, pruned at just the right time, and then blossoms into magnificence that you have to look at kind of sideways because it hurts the eyes to look at it directly.
Because if anyone ever deserved to have his dreams come true, it's this kid. And his mama and daddy. And even his (precious, adorable, witty, lovable and loves me to pieces) little sister.