A disliked bat destined for greatness
By Brad Horn
Baseball immortality takes all shapes and forms. And even, it seems, undesirable forms.
Such is the case of the Louisville Slugger that once belonged to Padres center fielder Jody Gerut until he donated it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Monday night.
Gerut notched not only the first official hit in the history of Citi Field, the Mets’ new showplace just feet from where Shea Stadium once stood, but that game-opening hit on the evening’s third pitch was a home run, adding to the significance of the feat.
After the game, Gerut was all too willing to rid himself of the bat that helped the Padres rain on the Mets’ parade. Walking into the clubhouse with Gerut and Padres shortstop David Eckstein, I told Jody that David could vouch for the care his bat would receive.
“David’s spikes from the ’02 [World] Series are in Cooperstown,” I said.
“Yep,” David added, “And my cap, too.” (The cap coming from his role as the little engine that could in propelling the ’06 Cardinals to a title.)
In having his bat immortalized forever in Cooperstown, Gerut didn’t resist the chance to part with the bat, not trying to milk one or two more clutch hits from this supposed good-luck charm.
“You want this?” Gerut asked me after the game. “Man, this is a lousy bat, go right ahead.”
And with that declaration, Gerut’s bat, along with the ceremonial first-pitch ball thrown by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and caught by legendary catcher Mike Piazza, and a Dunkin’ Donuts cup full of dirt from home plate taken after the game, are en route to their eternal home in Cooperstown this morning, where fans will soon be able to witness these treasures as part of our Today’s Game exhibit.
For Gerut, despite his displeasure with his bat, the moment means his donation will be forever linked with some of the greatest names of all time. And he’ll have the added satisfaction of being the answer to the trivia question, “Who collected the first hit in Citi Field history?”
The honor of the moment, though, is the lasting lesson from a great night for the gracious Gerut. After I had departed the Padres clubhouse last night, Gerut told my good friend Tim Sullivan, columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune, “In the end, it is a very humbling experience to have any part of your equipment in the Hall of Fame. That’s special.”
For Jody, being a part of baseball history will be a special moment in his life, as one day he’ll look back at the feat with a sense of pride. Today, he’ll just be happy that the donation means a new bat. One he’ll enjoy more than the one that ended up in Cooperstown.
Brad Horn is the senior director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.