Everyone knows the lunch-pail guy, or gal. They’re the ones who work hard, get the job done, and never complain, even when they are being overlooked by flashier co-workers. And all of us love it when that person finally gets the recognition that they are due.
You can be part of that group which provides that special recognition to an overlooked player, if you take the time to cast your ballot at the next Atlanta Braves game, or online here at the Camping World MLB ballot for outfielder Nick Markakis, baseball’s ultimate lunch-pail guy.
Markakis began his career with the Baltimore Orioles back in 2006. I moved here from Washington DC when I pulled for the boys in orange back then. Other than a great stadium, and Cal Ripken Jr.’s last season, there was little to cheer for. The team is usually eliminated from the postseason in June. And yet Markakis was in there, playing hard few a few die-hard fans.
He finished 6th in the Rookie of the Year balloting (being the rookie of the month in August that year). Except for one year when he suffered a big injury, he’s played in 155+ games every year after that rookie year. He’s won two-gold gloves in the outfield, and should have a lot more, since he owns the record for most consecutive games played in the OF without an error. In defensive games as a RF, he’s led the league nine times, third in the league in RF double plays, and is first among all players in assists in right field, is second in putouts among active players (leading the league four times), and was the top defensive outfielder four times in his career, including this year. But defense statistics and excellence are often overlooked.
Offensively, Markakis is a good player too. According to mlb.com “Jerry Crasnick of ESPN pointed out that Markakis is about to become the first player since World War II to have 2,000 career hits, 400 doubles and 1,000 runs (he was at 999 entering Friday) without making an All-Star team.” He’s just outside the top ten in active players in runs and sacrifice flies, and in the top ten in singles, walks, hits and games played as well, 16th among active players in RBIs. He strikes out pretty infrequently. When the game is on the line, and you need someone to make contact, you want Markakis in the box. But because he doesn’t hit tape-measure home runs, he’s often overlooked among fans outside of those in Atlanta and Baltimore.
He’s only made one postseason, with the Orioles. Now that he’s with the Braves as of 2015, his veteran leadership is helping the youngsters make their move for a pennant.
There’s another reason to vote for Markakis. This Young Harris College player has been involved in so many charities that he was nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award. Whether it is “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer,” the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the Home Run Challenge, he’s been involved in no shortage of charities. He even founded a charity for disadvantaged or suffering kids in Maryland with his wife, and they continue similar work today. He gives Major League Baseball a good name, like so many Atlanta Braves of yesteryear and today.
Earlier this year, my son and I made it to the Braves Day in January, where you can meet the coaches and players, if you are lucky. My son was, as Markakis and his teammates like Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson signed my son’s baseball while I watched the kids-only event. Then they passed around a pennant, signed it, and gave it to me, even though I wasn’t a kid, and didn’t ask for it. They busted just about every myth people have about aloof sports stars.
If anyone deserves an All-Star vote, it’s Nick Markakis. After all this time, while leading the league in hits and defensive stats this year, he’s actually contention for a much-deserved berth in the All-Star Game in Washington, DC, not just for the Braves, but for all of us hard-working guys and gals, who still carry a lunch-pail to work, to see one of our own get his due.