Fasano over Bonds

Baseball certainly has a broad range of personalities. At one end of the spectrum — of course — is Barry Bonds, the rude and ill-tempered slugger that was indicted this week for perjury and obstruction of justice. Now, a man doesn’t become known as the ‘most hated’ player in baseball overnight. Bonds has earned that reputation through years of surliness and general disrespect for those around him.

What will happen to Barry? Sports Illustrated’s John Donovan had this to say today: “We have seen, you have to think, the last of Barry Bonds on a baseball field. Who would touch him now? Who would hire a tainted slugger mired in legal quicksand, facing a high-profile trial with a chance of a decent-sized prison term at the end of it? Who would fork over millions of dollars for an aging and bitter pariah who, even if he clears all those legal hurdles, may yet get stomped on by the big boot of baseball’s commissioner?”

I’ll tell you who: Somebody. As long as Bonds has the talent to make a team better, somebody — unfortunately — will offer him a spot. That’s just the reality of the business.

Luckily, however, Baseball also has some great individuals. Guys that have (and show) the utmost respect for the game, its players, and even the media. I’m talking about guys like Sal Fasano, the 36-year-old former Blue Jay. I say former, but with the hopes that Toronto re-signs the veteran backstop for the 2008 campaign.

Sal Fasano is a career journeyman — there’s no other way to put it. Since entering pro ball in 1993, the man with the Fu-Manchu has played in the following cities: Eugene, Rockford, Wilmington, Wichita, Omaha, Kansas City, Oakland, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Durham, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, Anaheim, Columbus, Ottawa, Baltimore, Clearwater, Reading, New York, Philadelphia, Syracuse and Toronto. That’s 22 cities.

I got a firsthand glimpse of Sal in one of those cities. As a media relations intern with the Ottawa Lynx in 2005, one of my tasks was to ‘fetch’ certain players after games for an interview with the local press. During Ottawa’s first homestand, one of the writers wanted to talk to Fasano about his pitcher’s performance. Without hesitation, Sal left his dinner and came into the corridor for the interview. Without sounding patronizing, Fasano walked the interviewer through the approach that he and the starter had used against the opposing lineup, and talked about key pitches and situations that helped lead to the win. Fresh on the job, I was extremely impressed with Fasano’s courteousness and professionalism.

So, what will happen to Sal? Hopefully, he’ll get another chance with a big-league club. “You try to be a good person and you try to be a good player, and usually those two things combined can usually get you a job,” said Fasano in an interview last year. “Nobody wants to hire a jerk.”

They don’t want to, perhaps, but they will. Take Barry, for example. Let’s just hope that there’s still room in the game for one of the greats, as defined by ESPN’s Jeff Pearlman …

“When I think of Sal Fasano, I think of greatness. Not of Willie Mays or Ted Williams greatness, but of a uniquely excellent human being who, were class and decency the most valued standards of a career, would be the easiest Hall of Fame inductee of all time.”

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