ANAHEIM, Calif. – The season began in ceremony, as they all do, though in this case with the hitting coach in a trembling heap at home plate, which they very rarely do.
And, well, damn, Los Angeles Angels personnel on Monday night loaded 64-year-old Don Baylor into an ambulance, which would ferry him to a hospital, where he would be treated for what the team initially believed was an injury to his lower leg, and by appearances not a minor one. His wife Becky was at his side.
By the seventh inning, the Angels announced Baylor had broken his right femur – the thighbone – and would undergo surgery Tuesday. Baylor was diagnosed 11 years ago with a cancer called Multiple Myeloma, which creates soft spots in – and therefore weakens – the bones, and he’d carried on.
“It just kinda sucks,” Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick said. “The first day, that’s not how we want to start the season. …A lot of the guys here, they love Groove. To see something like that happen to a good person like Groove, it’s tough.”
If you didn’t know about Baylor’s cancer, it’s probably because of that; he carries on. Town after town. Job after job. Season after season. He returned to the Angels, for whom he’d played six seasons in the late 1970s and early ’80s, this winter as hitting coach. Another town, another job, another season.
Because he would not succumb. Because that is who he is, and what he does. He coaches ballplayers, soothes hitters, leads them.