The New ‘Face’ of Major League Baseball

Movies are made about these types of stories. Good movies. Movies that inspire, change lives, push us to become something greater; but, Lorenzo Cain is more than a movie. He’s an unorthodox paradox. He erased the laws of normalcy, ignored the stigma of inadequacy, all the while seeming to defy the laws of gravity…

I had to turn away. My years of toil in the outfields on those Illinois baseball fields since the age of 6 were, in the recesses of my fondest baseball memories, the reason that I not look at him sometimes. Watching him play the outfield, run the bases, throw balls in to the cutoff men, it was all so…painful. He wasn’t normal, he was average, at best, and worse yet, he was always hurt. I knew nothing of his background, I’d read zero back stories, had no idea where he came from or what his qualifications were to be in the big leagues. All I knew about him was his position as a throw-in in the 4 player deal that sent the whiny, handle-with-kid-gloves Zack Greinke to Milwaukee for shortstop Alcides Escobar. He ran funny. Threw awkwardly. Swung the bat in such a way that he gave fledgling chiropractors hope of new business for the long term. He reeked of rawness and, in my opinion, was just another repeated failure of the parent club at finding an every day center fielder who could both hit, run and play solid defense for years to come. And then, I watched him grow. You could almost hear him learn. He got healthy, got faster, got stronger and better. He didn’t worry about what you thought, what I thought. He showed us something that he and a handful of close friends and coaches of his have known for years; he’s a student of this game. He is, in every sense of the word, relentless. Like Neo, he became the game, and on the brink of their first World Series title in 29 years, the Royals have a new sheriff in town, and his name is Lorenzo Cain.

Movies are made about these types of stories. Good movies. Movies that inspire, change lives, push us to become something greater; but, Lorenzo Cain is more than a movie. He’s an unorthodox paradox. He erased the laws of normalcy, ignored the stigma of inadequacy, all the while seeming to defy the laws of gravity…

PROPRIOCEPTION: “The sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement.

You see, this is a kid who had no interest in baseball. Zero. He wanted to pursue basketball as a freshman in high school. In a Jordanesque coincidence, he was cut from that team, and it pissed him off. When driven athletes have a determined focus, they can’t see beyond the dream, but ‘LoCain’ was forced to. No little league in his past. No all-star games, no Happy Meals after a Saturday afternoon DH with his fellow grade school buddies, nothing. His father died at the age of 4, so his interests were more in video games and chores to help his mom. There was no time for other things. Not willing to accept his basketball fate, he asked a baseball playing friend about trying out for the team, and the coach needed people to fill his roster, even a kid that never played the game nor knew its’ rules. He used donated equipment. He practiced hard. He learned the rules and got better, albeit still awkward in his movements. He somehow got drafted by the Brewers, worked his way up the ladder, got traded, and now plays center field for the team that will represent the American League in the World Series. That day in high school, as he stood there searching the list of names for his own but not finding it, would be the moment that changed it all. For him. For his mom. For the KC Royals team, its’ front office, and its’ fans. Lorenzo Cain didn’t ask for this, but he has embraced it. He hasn’t asked for your permission, or mine, to be great. In fact, I doubt he ever thinks about things like that, because there’s no time in his laser-focused mind for that type of distraction. There’s work to do, things to get better at, and whether you follow him or not, there are people who count on him to do something that most of us want to do but don’t have the cuts to attempt. To be a leader…

DOMINION: “Sovereignty; control.”

There’s no quit in this kid. In the wake of injuries, a new ballpark, and the basic idea of finding your own way, Cain has never, for a second, shown signs of letting up. He’s gung-ho every second I’ve seen him on the field. He’s smart, instinctive. He gets great jumps, knows when to go for the dive or pull up and limit the damage. His footwork has improved dramatically, most likely the result of OF coach Rusty Kuntz, the same man who transformed former Nebraska star and hopeless third baseman Alex Gordon into one of the greatest outfielders of our generation. He knows where to throw and when to throw the ball, and does so with accuracy. He covers ground in the outfield like a cat chasing the red laser dot, and it’s a rare sight to see a ball drop within 20 feet of him. His hitting has also shown vast improvement, consistently using the entire field to scorch line drives and dink bloopers alike into the outfield. He’s racked up so many infield singles that it wouldn’t surprise me if some teams don’t start using a 5-man infield and 2-man outfield against him in an effort to cut their losses. He steals bases with the both the grace of a ballerina and the stomp of a fullback bursting through the hole. In everything LoCain does on the field, it all looks difficult and graceful at the same time. And just when you want to look at him with the tilted-head, just heard a high pitched sound puppy dog look, you applaud, because you can’t believe what you just saw. He’s gone from a no-name, player-to-be-named tag along to a clubhouse leader that will hit, run and diving catch opponents into the losers column. He won’t complain, he won’t be on a police blotter, and he’ll run through a brick wall for his teammates. To steal a line from his fellow teammate and speedy OFer Jarrod Dyson (with a slight modification), “That’s what leader do!”

JOY: “A feeling of great pleasure or happiness.”

162 games is a long season. I used to complain about the minor league season being 144 games long, let alone 162. Add 8 straight playoff wins without a loss, and a minimum of 4 World Series games, and there he’ll sit at 174. He hasn’t played in every one of the regular season games, but it’s no accident he’s in all the post season games. When the Royals have needed a big hit, a big defensive play, something huge, he’s usually involved somehow. His energetic attitude and “get pumped!” mentality give the crowd in the stands and the viewers at home something to jump up and pull a muscle about. This young man who never played baseball until high school, who had the courage to tell the Brewers he needed some time in college before he earned a paycheck in the game, has become not only the face of the KC Royals, but the face of the MLB. With his million-dollar smile, billion-dollar hustle and leadership skills that prohibit the insult of a price tag, the world now knows who he is. He’s the leader you didn’t know the Royals had. He’s the superstar freight train none of us saw coming. He’s the ALCS MVP, and upon accepting the coveted award, he thanked his mom. In my humble opinion, it reveals his most endearing quality. He’s loyal.

I want the Royals to win the World Series so badly I can taste it. For all of us that wore the uniform. For the new generation of KC players who must live in the shadow of the greatness of 1985. For the Cardinal fans who stain our stadium with a see of red during interleague play. For all the fans who have painfully watched losing seasons for years on end. But today, in my little moment of tears and risk of losing my man card, I want them to win for Lorenzo Cain, because he’s left his mark in this city, his heart on the field, and a dream kept alive for anyone who, when they work hard enough and for the right reasons, can become something great.