Friday, November 30, 2007

This Coach Is A "Hit"

We received an e-mail the other day from Nate Trosky about a concert he is having tonight.. Nate is the co-founder and head trainer at the Trosky Baseball School. Nathan spent 4 years as a player coach in Europe’s professional leagues and 2 years in the states in the minor leagues. Seasonally, when he goes back to Europe to coach with the Croatian Olympic team, he scouts for the Arizona Diamondbacks...and Nate loves baseball. In fact, he loves the game so much he is a writes songs about it...professional quality songs with catchy tunes and lyrics...One in particular was the subject of a story in the Monterey County Weekly...We are re-printing this story because it's guys like Nate that give baseball its character. He takes the term "respect the game" to a whole new level. We hope you enjoy this story as much as we did....

Baseball was a given for Carmel’s Nathan Trosky—it was in his blood. The love affair between the Trosky family and America’s pastime dates back to his grandfather, Hal Trosky, whose face landed on a box of Wheaties after he hit 42 home runs for the Cleveland Indians in 1936.

“I think when something is just there, when it’s such a big part of your life, you don’t think too much about it,” says Trosky, 37. “It wasn’t until high school that I started to grasp who my grandfather really was.”

This month, Trosky shared that inherited passion with hundreds of thousands of Major League Baseball fans when his original tribute to Jackie Robinson played at stadiums around the country.

Only when his own career as a full-time pro player and coach started to wind down in the mid-‘90s did Trosky discover just how important baseball was to his family.

“I wasn’t traveling so much, so I had more time to explore my family’s history in baseball,” he says. The increased leisure time brought a revelation—he was actually one of eight members of the Trosky family lineage to play under pro stadium lights.

“Our family’s huge, and most of them are from Iowa, so we’re not always in dialogue with each other,” he says. “With that separation, it’s difficult to have connections with all of them. Some of them, uncles and cousins who played in the pros, I’d never met before.”

Since his discovery, he’s committed himself to sharing his family’s baseball history, and the folklore surrounding the great players who played alongside his grandfather. He does that in different ways—as co-owner of Carmel Baseball, a youth baseball clinic on Sixth Avenue which doubles as a memorabilia shop, and as a musician.

Trosky’s part-time country music career has taken him to the stage at the San Francisco Blues Festival and KTOM Summer Jam. He’s also co-writing and performing in the Old Time Baseball Show, which premieres at the Carl Cherry Center next month.

Six months ago, he began working on a different project that would combine his love of music and baseball, an album about the great icons of baseball. One of the songs, “Born Right On Time,” is a twangy Americana ode to the life and legacy of Robinson.

“Without Jackie Robinson, who knows when society would’ve reached those milestones,” Trosky says. “He had a purpose, he was born to make a difference, and I think he knew that there was a greater plan at work.”

In 1947, 20 years before Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Robinson personified the civil rights movement when he became the first African-American player signed to a major league roster. Robinson’s impact transcended baseball: the NFL and NBA were integrated in 1948 and 1949, respectively. By the time his playing career ended in 1956, Brown v. Board of Education had integrated schools and Rosa Parks had kept her seat. Martin Luther King Jr.’s bus boycott would desegregate Birmingham’s public transit a short time later.

After finishing “Born Right On Time,” Trosky approached the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, to gauge its interest in using the song as part of the league-wide salute to Robinson on April 15, the 60th anniversary of Robinson’s Major League debut.

“The Hall of Fame loved the song, and gave us the rights to the footage,” Trosky said. He pieced clips of Robinson’s playing career into a music video, and sent the finished product to major league ballparks. The clip aired before games at MacAfee Coliseum in Oakland and Turner Field in Atlanta. The Philadelphia Phillies, whose April 15 game was rescheduled due to rain, aired the clip before Monday’s game with the Houston Astros.

Trosky sees some poetic justice in the fact that his tribute to Robinson was featured in Philadelphia, as Robinson’s experiences there during his rookie season were particularly painful. Since none of the hotels in the city would accept him, he and his wife were forced to stay at the YMCA. Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman, a native of Alabama, instructed his players to berate Robinson with a violent stream of racial epithets. Chapman himself screamed that Robinson should “go back to the cotton field.”

Robinson laughed last, however. At the end of the 1947 season he was named Rookie of the Year. Chapman, with his team mired in last place, was fired within a year.

To Trosky, that’s why Robinson is such an inspirational figure—when he was confronted by the ugly face of hatred, he only played better.

“He understood what he was called to do,” Trosky says. “That’s what allowed him to withstand even the most incredible persecution.”

Jackie Robinson’s story of perseverance is just one of many lessons that can be learned from studying baseball’s history, Trosky says. He tries to instill those lessons in the kids he coaches at Carmel Baseball.

“They were old school,” Trosky says of Robinson and the other great players of his grandfather’s generation. “Kids need role models like that to develop, people in their lives to teach values and good decisions.”

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