Being a Great Teammate and a Photograph That Never Should Have Happened.
by Drew Holmes
I have a picture of the first pitch of the 2004 World Series on the wall of my home studio. The game was at Fenway Park, home field of my beloved Boston Red Sox, and bears the autograph of the starting pitcher and catcher of that game.
By any reasonable metric that photograph never should have happened.
When asked who their favorite player is, Red Sox fans are usually divided on generational lines. David Ortiz or Pedro Martinez would be the expected modern choices, while Ted Williams is the quintessential favorite. But when asked that question, I always answer without hesitation: Tim Wakefield.
Why Tim Wakefield? Because over a 17-year career with the Red Sox he proved every day that he was the ultimate teammate and always put the best interests of the team ahead of his personal stats.
Drafted as a second baseman, Tim Wakefield realized he did not have the skills to make the majors as a position player. Rather than give up on his dream, he reinvented himself as a pitcher. Not a conventional pitcher, but a knuckleballer. When it works, the knuckleball is a devastating pitch fooling batter and catcher alike. When it does not work, it is the equivalent of putting the ball on a tee for the hitter. When asked why he would stake his career on such a risky pitch he simply replied, “I just want to be able to say I tried everything I could to make it.”
He became a mainstay of the Red Sox pitching staff, as a starter and reliever. The results were not always what he hoped (they never are) but he did everything that was asked of him, to the best of his abilities, every time.
What can this teach us as musicians?
The ensemble is bigger than any one player. You may have a solo, you may be playing harmony, or you may be resting silently, but you have a part to play. Skillfully executing it will bring the group closer to our goal: performing exceptionally and to the best of our abilities.
Fast forward to the 2004 American League Championship Series. The Red Sox are down 2 games to 0 to their archrivals, the New York Yankees. They are taking a beating in game 3, on their way to being down 3–0, a deficit no Major League Baseball team had ever climbed out of. Tim Wakefield, scheduled to start the next day, volunteered to go into the game in relief and take one for the team, preserving as many relief pitchers as possible in the process.
Because of that the Red Sox had the pitchers available to win Game 4. Then in game 5 he came in in relief and helped secure that win. In doing so he gave up any chance of starting another game in the American League Championship Series. However, he did start another game that season.
After the Yankees series went a full 7 games and the Red Sox prevailed, the pitching staff was spent. When it came time to decide a starter for Game 1 of the World Series, the honor fell to Tim Wakefield, the ultimate team player, and the man whose autograph is on the photo on my wall.
Putting the team above ourselves will yield some incredible results. Sometimes it is a memorable musical performance. And sometimes it can put a knuckleballer on the mound in the World Series.