Buck Showalter, in a former life, must have been the dean of a snooty East Coast boarding school or perhaps the world’s most anal retentive drill sergeant.
Lo and behold the Orioles skipper actually dolled out a homework assignment to prospect Josh Hart. Seriously. According to MASN and elsewhere Showalter made Hart write a one-page report on Frank Robinson after the 19-year-old 2013 supplemental draft pick admitted he didn’t know anything about the Orioles legend — the first man to win the MVP in both the American and National League.
Hart wrote up the report on Robinson, which he said was beneficial to learn about the Hall of Famer.
“I knew he was a Hall of Famer, but specifically, I didn’t know anything about him, but I did my research and he’s accomplished a lot,” Hart said, according to the Mid-Atlantic Sports website. “To be a manager and player at the same time, a 14-time All-Star, win Most Valuable Player in the National League and American League, that’s an accomplishment. That’s walking proof that he’s legendary.”
The natural inclination here is to either poke fun at Hart for not knowing anything about Robinson, the first African American manager in the Majors or laugh at Showalter’s obsessive tendencies. Instead let’s try to be a little more open-minded. As silly as it sounds for Showalter to hand out homework to a professional athlete, is it all that crazy to have Hart scan the Internet for 5-10 minutes to pick up a few cursory facts about Robinson? It’s not like Hart’s punishment for ignorance was running laps around the warning track.
On that note is that surprising a 19-year-old kid doesn’t know anything about Robinson? He retired in 1976 and last managed with the Nationals in 2006. Yes, he is an important figure in the game’s history but let’s face it how many kids nowadays are talking baseball history — or any sports history on a daily basis?
If we polled Americans if they knew who, say, Babe Ruth or even Hank Aaron was, the number would be surprisingly low. You could probably do this for any sport. How many guys in the NFL would know be able to recognize Bart Starr or Deacon Jones is if you showed them a picture? Let’s be even more realistic, how many guys who’ll be drafted in May would be able to recognize someone as current as Jim Kelly or Reggie White? Maybe this is drastic but there are probably a fair number of kids playing sports in high school who don’t even know about Michael Jordan.
It always seems to surprise a lot of sports fans — and especially media members — that athletes in most cases aren’t as obsessive nerds about sports history, stats, rankings, etc. as they are. Some baseline knowledge of the guys who came before you, sure that’d be nice but it’s not a requirement for being a professional athlete.
Anyways, good job by Showalter and Hart here. A little knowledge about the past can’t hurt.