Very rarely do moments come along in life that you are certain of will stay fresh in your mind forever. Well, such a moment happened to me Monday night and I'll never forget about it as long as I live.
In all honesty I can’t tell you how hard it is to lead into this story.
I’m still in shock, still in disbelief, still a little shaky from what I experienced Monday night.
I thought it was just going to be a regular night out at the ballpark. The Hannibal (Mo.) Cavemen were playing the Dubois County Bombers on a typical hot and humid night at Clemens Field, and I was ready just kick back, relax and watch some baseball.
Little did I know that this night would turn into something I didn’t expect. Something I would have never thought of. Something I would never forget as long as I live.
Not too many folks know that the father of Cavemen Manager Jay Hemond and Cavemen owner Bob Hemond is longtime Major League Baseball general manager and executive Roland Hemond. And come Saturday, he’s going to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., as the second recipient of the Buck O’Neil Award.
But as a stop along the way to Cooperstown, Roland stopped in Hannibal to check up on his boys and catch a ballgame. And I got to talk baseball with the 2011 inductee throughout Hannibal’s 9-6 victory.
There’s clearly a lot to chat about given his more than 60 years of experience in professional baseball.
We shared stories of favorite moments in baseball history, personal moments we’ve had in the game and just chatted about the overall players — past and present — and how great they were and are.
He speaks in a very attention-grabbing tone that could stop the world from spinning. Yet at the same time, he has this grandfather-like personality that grips your interests as he tells you a story.
As we talked, we paused several times just to watch plays on the field unfold. I couldn’t help, but glance over at Roland as he watched the ball roll on the ground and get snagged by a Dubois County infielder while the Hannibal runner dashed as fast as he could to first base.
His faded blue eyes barely blinked when the play was committed and it really made me wonder about all of the great things he’s seen throughout his life in baseball.
Everything from Disco Demolition Night to countless World Series championships.
Every player imaginable from the final season of the great Joe DiMaggio to the great players of today like Mark Burle and Albert Pujols. Roland Hemond has seen them all.
He has stepped on the fields of ballparks long gone, seen the parts of stadiums that only the head honchos of baseball get to see and fans are only able to hear and dream about. He personally knows great players and people that true baseball fans like myself idolize and dream to merely shake hands with. He is THE general manager of general managers, THE baseball executive of baseball executives.
I am very fortunate to say that I shook hands with Roland Hemond, but I can also say that I’m deeply honored that I got to talk baseball with him. Truly one of the game’s best.
Dominic Genetti writes for the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post.