When the web developed into something with enough waves to “surf,” baseball was one of the waves I dove into. Think about it — “surfing” — that is, mass casual reading — was not really a form of communication that really existed before. At least not for me.
And one of these one-way conversations I voluntarily placed myself in front of, was the baseball writings of Rob Neyer. He was probably the main “national” voice, while TwinsGeek and Stick and Ball Guy were the two Twins voices I first tapped into.
Rob Neyer announced his departure from ESPN.com today. Tomorrow or maybe sometime soon, he’ll announce where he’ll end up. Speculation is that he’ll have a new gig soon, so maybe I’ll just change the channels where I hear him.
On the channel of ESPN.com, Rob was the guiding voice into a re-thinking of baseball for me. It’s always been the one sport I loved. And with Rob leading the way, I got to fall in love with it all over again in the liberating ways a fresh look can bring. Rob championed some arguments that were easy enough to accept — such as the overvalue of the RBI, and some I’m still trying to get my head around — such as the pitcher having so little control over the destiny of a batted ball.
I get to live in the same town as Rob. I got to meet him for a beer once, due to a mutual friend. It was after book-reading by Rob in a local bookstore. After the reading and after the book-signing — but before the beer and before Rob had to run off to conduct a late-night baseball radio interview — I saw Rob combing the aisles of the bookstore looking at books on bird watching. I concluded that he wasn’t merely a sports nerd, but something better — a man with a curious mind. (Who happened to land a damn fine gig applying the curiosity toward baseball.)
Last year on this website, I wrote a farcical piece offering Joe Nathan my tendon for use in his Tommy John surgery. The said mutual friend forwarded this piece onto Rob. By that time Rob read it, the piece was long past relevant, but here is what Rob said about it via an email reply…
” That’s awesome. I wish I’d seen that at the time, would have dropped into the blog. Next time…”
Oh. If only. A Neyer Link. I’d pray for a Friday Filbert, or maybe a mere Monday Mendoza.
I also once got a personal wave from the Dali Llama (I swear this is true. Some future post.) Rob’s personal seal of approval ranks right up there.
Good Luck Rob.