Bob Sparks: The incredible non-political story of Lorenzo Cain

With the election only two weeks away, we suffer degrees of numbness from the political ads. Depending on your region of Florida, you may already have fled to Netflix or DVDs to escape the bombardment.

But complaining about negative ads is pointless because they’re so effective. For those seeking a respite, I recommend reading or watching stories that can put one in a better frame of mind.

Allow me to offer one. I pledge to readers that the only time they will see the word “fan” is when the word “baseball” is placed before it.

October is saturated with politics, but it’s also the month the World Series is played. The Fall Classic begins this week in Kansas City where the Royals will face the San Francisco Giants.

The man who bats third is usually a highly dependable hitter. For the Giants, that man is former Florida State superstar Buster Posey. For the Royals, it is their center fielder, Lorenzo Cain.

For anyone who follows baseball, Posey is a known commodity. Playing in a major market, he was National League Rookie of the Year in 2010 and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2012.

Lorenzo Cain, on the other hand, has toiled in anonymity in the smaller markets of Milwaukee and Kansas City. Until now.

Cain is a native of Madison County, Fla., just a few miles east of where Posey was winning accolades along with a lot of games for the Seminoles from 2006-08. Cain’s first love was basketball, but he did not make the high school team.

His mother, Patricia, did not want him playing football (his father died when he was age 4). So, Cain decided to give baseball a try despite the fact he had never played the game.

He showed up for a junior varsity tryout without a glove or any equipment for a team that had only eight players. With the option of sticking Cain somewhere on the field or forfeiting games, Coach Barney Meyers took on the job of teaching this young man the basics that others learn in Little League.

By the time he finished high school, he was so skilled that he was drafted in the 17th round in 2004 by the Milwaukee Brewers. After one year at Tallahassee Community College, Cain joined the Brewers’ organization.

After a few years in the minor leagues, he finally made it to the major leagues in 2010. It wasn’t easy. In a profile piece published in the Kansas City Star, Patricia Cain was there to figuratively “talk him off the ledge” when he experienced down times. After one season in Milwaukee, he was traded to Kansas City in 2011.

At that time, his marketable skills were speed and fearless defense. Shortly after his arrival in the major leagues, I vividly recall him crashing into the wall in Cincinnati chasing a fly ball. Of course, he caught it.

When the Royals are in the field, television cameras will often focus on the flight of a baseball as it leaves an opponent’s bat. Often appearing into view seemingly out of nowhere is first the outstretched glove followed by the 6-foot-2-inch frame of Cain turning a would-be extra base hit into just another out.

In 2014 he became a complete player. He began to generate offense by batting .301 and stealing 28 bases, both ranking eighth in the American League.

Last week the Royals earned their place in the World Series by sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in four games. Cain made some ridiculous catches and batted .533, earning him the honor of Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series.

It takes a special person to do what Cain has done. Even Buster Posey would likely applaud Cain’s achievements. Let’s not forget his mother, who did a tremendous job raising him and supporting him.

Baseball fans will tune into the World Series this week. For those who infrequently watch baseball, please watch a few innings and check out Floridian Lorenzo Cain.

You will get to see a professional who puts everything he has into his job. We can all learn something from the story of a 28-year-old unlikely baseball player.

Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.      

Bob Sparks

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at [email protected] and Twitter @BobSparksFL.


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