I hate flying. It has nothing to do with being cramped or uncomfortable, although I'm over six-feet tall so it is an annoyance. It's not the general anxiety that comes with packing and getting to the airport, although, like everyone, I’m not a huge fan of that either. Rather, it's because I constantly think I’m going to die.
I know the statistics, I know how irrational this is. I also know some people who have such a fear of flying that they've sought medical help, and I want to be clear that my anxiety about flying does not reach that level. But, it's still there. I once cornered a pilot at a NYE party so he could reassure me that when the plane hits turbulence it doesn’t mean anything bad. I’ll never forget what he said. Paraphrasing, turbulence is not much different from driving on a bumpy road. Imagine driving a car on a smooth highway and then taking an exit onto a gravel road. The car is bumping around because that’s what it’s supposed to do. If it was a smooth ride then that would be weird. That wouldn't be right. Turbulence is the same thing, he said. The plane is doing what it’s supposed to do. And just like a car isn’t going to all of a sudden careen off the road and burst into flames when on a gravel road, neither will a plane when it hits turbulence.
This made complete sense. I felt better. And then on my next flight as soon as we hit turbulence I thought about dying again. Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t control the irrational parts of your brain and move on. But this is why upon landing and leaving the plane, I always thank the flight attendants and pilots for all that they do. On a rare occasion I’ll get a look in return like “Thank you, please leave now,” but more often than not they’re incredibly appreciative. I do this because I can’t fathom having the will to do what they do everyday - nor can I fathom having the skill of the pilots to actually fly a plane - and yet sometimes because of work, or because my parents want to see their grandchildren, I have to fly. I depend on the crew and pilots, people who decided to make it their life’s work to ensure people like me feel safe and are safe while zig-zagging all across the country in just a matter of hours.
But I would never be able to do that job. I think you’re either born wanting to fly or you’re not. I imagine this is especially true for pilots. For a lot of them there’s no place they’d rather be than in the sky.
Apologies if that's a bit dramatic and off the beaten path, but I bring this up because it (somehow) reminds me of catchers. Wanting to be a catcher must be in your DNA; you're either a catcher or your'e not. It's more of a niche position than probably even pitching and from the outside looking in appears to be the least desirable place on the diamond. There's the squatting. The foul tips off the mask, and, um, other places. The fact that there's no time off, they're involved in basically every single play. The constant taking off and putting back on equipment. I hate having to get dressed for work in the morning, having to do it over and over on a nightly basis sounds awful. In fact, the entire experience sounds awful but I bet for most catchers there’s no place they’d rather be than behind home plate.
It's the one position where I apply credit for simply showing up, and no one has done that more in recent memory than Yadier Molina. For fifteen seasons now he's been showing up. It's not just recent history either. He's caught more games for just one franchise than any other player to ever put on shin guards. Given he's likely to retire a Cardinal, that is a record that might not be broken for a very long time.
Obviously, Molina's legacy doesn't end there. He's done a lot more than just being on time for work every day. I don't have to tell you about the Gold Gloves or the Fielding Bible awards. Or that he's mostly responsible for the Cardinals having far and away the fewest stolen base attempts against them over the last decade or so. Or that he transformed himself into an above-average hitter for the position after starting so poorly at the plate that most of us just assumed we'd have to appreciate him for his defense alone. It won't be my job to decide, but when the time comes I think more than 75 percent of those in position will agree that this is Hall of Fame stuff and they will be correct.
We should admire people who do not miss their calling. Like Iván Rodríguez before him, Molina just looks like a catcher. The stout frame, the short stature, a demeanor that exudes seriousness. He's the perfect walking avatar for the position and it's appropriate that he's likely going to go straight from catching into retirement rather than spending a season or two at a less grueling position, as so often is the case with aging catchers. Yadier Molina doesn't belong anywhere else. He was born to do this, to be behind home plate, and he's done it better than most.
If you wish to donate to Yadier Molina's fund Fundación 4 - a charitable organization whose stated mission is, in part, “to create happier lives and futures for underprivileged children in Puerto Rico," - you can do that here.