Saturday, June 26, 2010

AJ reminds us ballplayers human too

As fans, it's sometimes easy for us to forget that the ballplayers we are watching are human too. Richer, but definitely human. AJ Burnett's personal tragedy reminded us of that this week.

Burnett, who will start today's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, suffered a great personal loss with the death of his grandfather, with whom AJ apparently had a very close relationship. He raced home to Arkansas on the New York Yankees day off Thursday to be with his grandfather, who died right after Burnett returned to the team.

Could his grandfather's illness be part of why Burnett has struggled so badly? Possibly, but he seems to be dealing with mechanical issues with his delivery. But Burnett is an emotional guy and knowing that his grandfather was so close to death and not being sure if he would get a chance to say goodbye had to be weighing on him.

I didn’t know about his grandfather being so ill so I was frustrated watching him getting smacked all around the desert this week, as were the thousands of other Yankee fans who made the pilgrimage to Arizona. Joe Girardi understands our frustration, but is confident he can get his pitcher back on track. “We’ll get him straightened out,” Girardi said.

AJ is fortunate to have a manager like Girardi, who is a family man above all else. He understood his pitcher's internal conflict and urged him to go home, even when Burnett protested he didn't want to leave his team.

“I think it relieved him a little bit,” Girardi said. “When we’re losing a loved one and your fear is you’re not going to see him anymore, that’s difficult. I just felt a different presence about him.”

Here’s hoping that Girardi is right about his pitcher, that getting a chance to say goodbye to his grandfather gives AJ some comfort.

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