I’ve been asked to lay down a little history on the most famous - nay, infamous - award on the Vancouver sporting horizon, and with Dante Love earning the big prize for 2007, what better time than now to commit the legend to print?
The origins of the BHPoY date back to 1994, when we first‘made ourselves known’ to the players. Remember, April can be prettyhorrid in this town, so we spent a lot of Triple-A nights watchinggames, along with about 300 paying fans. In other words, a "BrentImlach 3000", in terms of the recorded "paid" attendance that showed upin the papers. We at first sat with the pitchers charting pitches, andwe’d shoot shit in-between innings, because we all had to be there.
One night, it even led to a game of "Count the Fans", an Apriltradition maintained until the end of Vancouver’s Triple-A run, mostfamously played in 1996 by Will Pennyfeather and Darin Erstad, whowould shout running counts to a seated Ernie Dragan [seen below]. This may or maynot have been the same game where, in the 9th inning, Ernie, Dave andI razzed Antonio Osuna so badly, in Spanish, he walked two straightbatters and gave the C’s a victory, simultaneously earning uscredibility with the pitchers.
Eventually, we were invited to sit downin the bullpen area; since we were staff, no one seemed to mind, andthe players liked that we kept the looky-loos away using our friendlydemeanour.
From then on we were regulars in the bullpen area. If we weren’tworking, we were hanging out. We even road tripped to Tacoma orPortland to watch the boys; they appreciated the effort, even invitingus out drinking in Tacoma a couple of times to start the season. [Thisis where the Alehouse from the road trip with Matt fits in.]
Between1995-98, the glory years for the hawkers in Triple-A, we got to hangwith guys like Dennis Springer, Fausto Tejero, George Fabregas, BengiMolina, David Holdridge and Mark Holzemer. Plus, during warm ups, guyslike Orlando Palmeiro, Jim Edmonds and Darin Erstad would come over andsay hi. We got to know the boys quite well; at one point, Bengi wasgoing to stay with Ernie’s brother, but the day he was to move was theday he got called up.
My favourite story is from 1995. Back when I taught structuredsummer school, I used to finish about 1:00. Being single, I would just gostraight to the park, and proceed to spend the 5 hours before game timedoing my marking and prepping lessons. I’d just sit in the BBQ area andjust work. If the game started, and I wasn’t working, I’d move a tableinto the bullpen and keep working.
One sunny evening in July, around asecond inning, then-C’s pitching coach Gary Ruby came strolling down tothe bullpen. He wanted to know "what the hell" his players were doingreading in the bullpen. Ken Edenfield [seen left] shot back that "we’re helping Robmark tests!"
And, indeed, they were; I’d let the boys check out mywork, and since it was a test comparing US versus Canadian government,they felt it educational to check it out. Coach Ruby just looked, shookhis head, and went back to the dugout.
When it came to creating a Beer Hawker Player of the Year, bigDave Rowan was the first one to mention that. It was some randomcomment one day, after Orlando Palmeiro spent a whole game trying tohit us from left field, when he would tell whoever he was catching withto move on his last throw. He would do stuff like that to make sure wewere paying attention; we think it was also a sign he liked us, becauseit became like a game between us, something he’d do all the time. [Theywere just casual lobs, not bullets intended to kill.].
At that point,Dave anointed him Beer Hawker Player of the Game. A few more weeks ofwatching and appointing the ceremonial moniker led to Player of theYear, and the presentation of an end-of-year three trays of beer to theclubhouse.
It grew from there, and survived the transition from Triple-A toSingle-A, despite the fact that we don’t get to hang in the bullpenanymore. The brevity of the Single-A season prevents our getting toknow the guys all that well; there aren’t any April nights to hang outwith them in a near-empty stadium. However, I think now it means moreto the players, because many of them do not make it to the Big Dance; itbecomes another solid memory from their time as a pro athlete.
I knowfrom watching the reaction of the players to Dante Love winning onWednesday that it has come across as an award given to the guy theactual awards skip over. It’s like recognition someone actually did seethem play. In other words, Dan Hamblin might have gotten a lot ofpress, but the fans and employees also validated the efforts ofpart-timer D-Love. Even as someone pointed out that most of theSingle-A players who won got released, I was able to point out that allbut one at least got promoted and given more chances.
That brought outthe D-Love smile, and further reinforced his victory.