Fifteen-year-old Major League Soccer Savior Freddy Adu came to Rochester last Wednesday night as part of a friendly match that pitted his team, DC United, against the Rhinos. United won, 2-0, and Adu scored a fine mid-range goal set up by former Greece Arcadia star and United teammate Dema Kovalenko.
Adu's got that Bill Clinton charisma about him. He signed zillions of autographs and people were screaming his name and touching him as if he were Justin Timberlake. Outside the DC locker room, he had his picture taken with the seductive Rochester Rhinestones dance team, during which he exclaimed, as any teenager with raging hormones might, "This is the greatest day of my life!"
Clinton might have said the same thing.
Many have questioned whether it's good to thrust amazingly talented teens such as Adu into pro sports careers and surround them with pressure. Veteran teammate Jaime Moreno, one of MLS' leading scorers, says, "I mean... I don't know what kind of pressure you're talking about... He's got no pressure because he's got a four-year guaranteed contract. There's nothing to worry about."
Adu is guaranteed at least $2 million.
Earnie Stewart, a DC teammate and 13-year veteran of the US national team, says nothing is different about having a 15-year-old teammate: "I don't know. He's one of my teammates. I don't look at him as 15. He's one of my teammates and I treat him just like everyone."
Stewart, 35, seemed to hold back, hence the "I don't know what to say" nature of the comment. He and Moreno, 30, appeared cool in speaking about Adu. Both are seasoned pros with World Cup experience. It must be tough to watch a 15-year-old, come in and make the top salary on the team and in the league, and have nearly everyone kiss his feet.
On the other hand, maybe they're just tired of talking about him.
If there's anything good about being a Red Wing with an injury requiring extended rehab, it's that you get a chance to go to the Minnesota Twins' complex in Fort Myers, Florida. That's where shortstop and occasional City Newspaper contributor Jason Bartlett is healing his broken wrist. I called him at lunchtime on June 25 and he was headed to the beach with some players from Minnesota's Gulf Coast League rookie ball team.
Bartlett recently began fielding. He'll soon start swinging a Wiffle Ball bat before he tries a wooden bat. He wouldn't say when he'll be back, but it's likely to be sometime in mid- to late-July.
He's paying attention to the Wings, though he wasn't sure where they were in the standings. As of June 25, Rochester was in second place, one game ahead of Buffalo and four-and-a-half behind Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Bartlett knew that first-baseman Justin Morneau and pitchers Dave Gassner and Jesse Crain made the International League All-Star team.
He also bellyached that, despite being in Florida, he's still splitting rent with Crain, who's his roommate in Rochester.
See, life really isn't fair, even to pro athletes.
My dad and I watched the Red Wings' Father's Day victory over Charlotte and had one of the best times we've ever had together. The game was a slugfest and we thoroughly enjoyed talking baseball with each other and a couple of great fans around us. And I also thoroughly enjoyed the fattest, juiciest half-pound hamburger I swear I ever ate.
Later, I scoured the concourse for Cracker Jack, which I couldn't find. Someone told me it was only sold by walk-around vendors, whom I also couldn't find. So I was forced to settle for French fries.
When the seventh-inning stretch arrived, people became solemn during "God Bless America," but personally, I felt more somber when that patriotic song was followed by "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," and it mentioned buying Cracker Jack...
Frontier Field is decent. It has delicious, reasonably priced concessions. It's better when the Wings are fun to watch. But the stadium would be best as a baseball-only facility.
My major complaint is the price we paid to build it. The Diamond in Richmond, Virginia --- the best minor league stadium I've visited --- was built in 1985 for $8 million, according to the Richmond Braves' website. Frontier Field was built in 1996 for about $41.5 million. Adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index, $8 million was worth $11.7 million in 1996. Conversely, $41.5 million in 1996 was worth $28.5 million in 1985. By 1996 numbers, Richmond built The Diamond for a little more than a quarter of what Frontier cost. Frontier Field is good, but it's not $41.5 million good...
Final thought: I recently read on the Bills website that former receiver Andre Reed is a devoted husband and loving father, which is likely true. But I recall one veteran I interviewed, who told me to turn my tape recorder off so he could offer me this description of the Buffalo receiver, following Reed's last Bills season in 1999: "Andre Reed was a f---ing cancer."
Fortunately, I didn't need my tape recorder on to remember that.