For love of the game...Nelson Figueroa 棒球浪人 費古洛

February 21, 2009


Kevin Costner在1999年主演的For Love of the Game(中文片名: 往日柔情

一直是我最喜歡的棒球電影之一...





起先或許是因為其英文片名

和Michael Jordan在十年前出版的自傳For the Love of the Game太過相似

讓我決定不顧一切賭一把去看這部電影

(如果光看該電影的中文片名, 應該會許多男性朋友一開始就放棄觀看)

儘管該片的劇本滿是標準好萊塢勵志電影的老套橋段

但是該片不把重心放在描寫片中主角Billy Chapel的生涯高峰期、

反而費心敘述了他如何因為嚴重意外及個人的剛愎自用以致於幾乎失去一切的低潮期

片中花了極長的時間記錄Billy Chapel身穿老虎隊球衣的最後一場對上洋基的比賽

其中穿插著想盡辦法要集中注意力的Billy不時浮現腦海中的往日片段...



雖然這部電影永遠無法取代棒球電影中的永恆經典 Field of Dreams

但是卻足以讓我在看電影的過程中眼眶含淚、久久不能自已...



這部由普立茲克獎得主Michael Shaara所著同名小說改編而成的電影

讓我們看著儘管已經40歲且球員生涯就要走到終點、卻還是拒絕長大的Billy

如何忍著生理上的傷痛和心理上的疲憊、

在傳奇性的舞台 - 洋基球場 中面對棒球電影中最經典的反派角色-紐約洋基隊、

抱持著沒有明天的心態用Perfect Game為職業生涯劃下完美句點時

卻赫然發現自己因為這個從小一直深愛的運動得到很多卻反而失去了更多

賽後在飯店房間中痛哭失聲的同時也真正成長為一個有責任感的男人...



小說畢竟是小說

儘管這樣的故事讓熱愛體育賽事、

看過許多巨星一夕殞落或是猶如灰姑娘般戲劇化的故事不斷上演的我

更加確信運動之所以吸引人並不是因為持續不斷的成功故事、

而是因為其悲喜交加的戲劇性因素



但我也知道Perfect Game通常不會是這類型故事在真實世界上演時的最終幕

尤其在看著Michael Jordan決定在2001年改披巫師隊戰袍重出江湖後

我對完美結局並不存在於真實世界的結論更是深信不疑...



不過今天New York Post專欄作家Mike Vaccaro一篇名為 Ramblin' Man 的文章

又將我的思緒帶回了去年4月11日的紐約大都會主場Shea Stadium

那場一度讓我想要重新相信"完美結局"真正存在的比賽...



該文章的主角是一位台灣棒球迷應該相當熟悉、

但對除了支持大都會外的美國當地球迷來說卻十分陌生的Nelson Figueroa

沒錯...他就是那位在2007年球季中華職棒冠軍系列戰中史無前例拿下三場先發勝、

幾乎可說是以一己之力為統一獅隊搶回冠軍盃的 費古洛



這位在出身於紐約市Brooklyn區的紐約客、

為了自己深愛的棒球運動從1995年由紐約大都會的小聯盟出發、

繞了世界一周的他才在去年球季終於又回到了大都會的球員名單中

這個始於Brooklyn、終於同樣為於紐約市的Queens、

不管在地圖上或是實際上都僅有咫尺之遙的旅程



卻整整花費了他13年的光陰才終於走到...



根據他自己的說法

他在所有設有職業棒球聯盟的國家都拿過至少一勝...韓國除外



"I'm winless in Korea" 他這麼對Mike Vaccaro說道



"So far."



他的補充或許有其必要

誰敢保證美國大聯盟會是現年34歲的他的職業生涯最後一站呢?



他的棒球生涯或許遠不如小說中虛構的Billy Chapel來的精彩

但是他從中浪人般的棒球生涯中點滴體會到的得失

似乎早就讓他的心智成熟度遠遠超過那位高齡40歲還在投手丘上為生涯唯一一場、

也是最後一場可能的Perfect Game奮戰的過氣巨投



"I miss things, and it hurts," 費古洛說道

"But I love this game so much, and it's still in my blood, still such a huge part of who I am. I love everything about it."



唯有經過嚴厲考驗的愛情才是真愛

那麼費古洛和棒球之間應該有著瓊瑤小說中所描寫的至死不逾愛情

當一個又一個應該名列千古的球員都因為使用禁藥而備受質疑、

球迷開始懷疑究竟還有沒有那種值得他們為其搖旗吶喊的球員存在時

Nelson Figueroa或許值得球迷如此推心置腹的支持...



So he keeps grinding, keeps doing his daily work to earn his daily bread, hopes to stick with the Mets out of camp, hopes to keep chasing what has kept him filling passports and his own dreams for so many years.



People wonder all the time if there are guys left in baseball worth rooting for.

Here's one: Nelson Figueroa



獻給所有為了一生摯愛浪跡天涯的運動浪人們...





Ramblin' Man
Figueroa has passport to MLB success



By MIKE VACCARO

Published: Feb. 21, 2009 / New York Post


The man at the airport in Car acas kept looking at Nelson Figueroa's passport, kept thumbing through it, kept seeing page after page, stamp after stamp, some of the stamps right on top of others.

"How long have you had this?" the man asked, shaking his head.

"Two years," Figueroa said, smiling.

There are 24 available pages in a typical U.S. Passport. As of this moment, 16 of Figueroa's pages are filled with stamps. This is life on the baseball fringe, on the other side of the world from the stars that flicker throughout the Mets clubhouse.

Figueroa already has had, by any measure, a fine ride through his baseball career. He has played parts of six seasons, with four different teams. He has won 10 big league games, which is 10 more than 99.7 percent of all the people who foster dreams of big league careers. He has earned close to a couple million dollars playing baseball, and at age 34 has yet to don a necktie to go to work every day.

That's saying something. And it speaks to why Figueroa's passport is so full, why his arm has been so busy the past few years, why he has turned baseball into a full-time, year-round vocation, why he has earned at least one victory in, by his estimation, every country that has a full-time professional baseball league except for Korea.

"I'm winless in Korea," he said, smiling. "So far."

For a while, Figueroa was one of the Mets' feel-good stories of 2008, joining the team early in April - a Brooklyn kid making the long trip home at last, his friends and family filling the family section at Shea Stadium every time he pitched, SNY's cameras always managing to find them during key segments of games.

He even had one fleeting flash of stunning perfection, a chilly Friday night against the Brewers, the team that edged the Mets by a game six months later for the wild card. For 4" innings that April 11, Figueroa was perfect: 14 up, 14 down. He left after five innings and two hits, earned the win, electrified Shea for a couple hours.

He finished 3-3 on the season in 16 appearances and six starts. He earned one more bit of notice in his final start, May 12 against Washington, when he pitched poorly then ripped the Nationals for acting like a high school softball team on the bench, an admittedly bush move by a last place team that nonetheless struck a chord.

And you can understand why, pretty easily, because for some of the ringleaders of that silly chorus line - Elijah Dukes chief among them - baseball has always come as naturally as breathing, as easily as blinking an eye. Players overloaded with talent and perks never really appreciate the game until they either have to or until it's too late.

Players like Figueroa, who has had to earn every one of his 161" big league innings, reside on the opposite extreme. They not only love the game, they revere it. They will do anything within reason to stay a part of it because they know, as well as anyone, that when you retire you'll be retired a long time. You don't part with the baseball life easily.

"It's hard sometimes," Figueroa said. "I make sacrifices all the time, I spend time away from my wife and my 5-year-old and my friends and my family, spend time all over the place - in Mexico and the Dominican [Republic] and Puerto Rico and Venezuela - because I want people to see I can still pitch. I can still be good enough to pitch in this league."

He smiled.

"I miss things, and it hurts," he said. "But I love this game so much, and it's still in my blood, still such a huge part of who I am. I love everything about it."

So he keeps grinding, keeps doing his daily work to earn his daily bread, hopes to stick with the Mets out of camp, hopes to keep chasing what has kept him filling passports and his own dreams for so many years. People wonder all the time if there are guys left in baseball worth rooting for. Here's one: Nelson Figueroa







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