Buck Showalter has a flair for making headlines.
When he came to Baltimore as head coach in 2010, he turned a woeful franchise into a contender by reminding players, among other things, of the Oriole Way. He has not wavered in his pursuit of education: recently, he took prospect Josh Hart to task for not knowing the history of Frank Robinson, and assigned the 19-year-old a homework assignment.
This history and knowledge of the game is something Showalter is known for. The savvy skipper may have a larger reputation for resurrecting failing franchises, but those close to him will always think of him first as an historian of the game.
In fact, the Josh Hart example is not the only time Showalter's pulled the "writing assignment" stunt.
Hop in your time traveling machine and set the dial for the year 1992. Here you will find the same Showalter, with the same understated grisliness and perhaps less (but still some) grandfatherly-ness about him. You'll also find another young rookie with a lack of his employing franchise's history.
A skinny kid named Derek Jeter was trying to break into the big league club, and was on his way to hear an old Yankee player address the team before a Spring Training practice. The speaker, some guy named "Phil Rizutto." Upon learning that Jeter knew nothing of Rizutto and his role in Yankee lore, Showalter gave the rookie shortstop an assignment: research and write a paper on the legacy of the best shortstop to ever wear the pinstripes.
Not many reports surfaced of the incident at the time, however your correspondent was able to obtain a copy of the original draft. The entire document does not remain, and unfortunately we are bereft of the full submission. But the following is an excerpt of Jeter's assignment, transcribed from the original hand-written document:
There's a plack [sic] in Yankee Stadium calling Phil the all-time greatest SS in Yankee history. Okay maybe he is right now but it's not like I got a chance to play yet. I saw film and this guy has no jumping skills at all in the field. Not to sound too cocky but I make plays look so much better than he does because I think I'm probably better than he does things. Also at least I have a last name that is easy to spell. Plus I think the name 'Phil' is stupid. I met so many bros name Phil and none have them were cool even a little. The only other Derek I met was this guy in 4th grade who came to my birthday. He gave me a whole basket full of birthday gifts. That is easily the best gift-giving method I have ever known since forever. SO okay maybe Phil Risotto is been pretty good at stuff and I guess I'm glad I met him.
There are countless scholarly and anecdotal questions raised by this excerpt: did this satisfy Showalter's response? Does Derek Jeter grasp the skills necessary for an intro and conclusion to a writing assignment? Are these essays graded?
Despite incompleteness of this information, it does shed light on some truths. For one, Showalter is a man who appreciates his history and the timeless form of essay. Two, the Josh Hart headline-grabbing assignment was not his first take at educating new players. And three, well, there doesn't need to be a three, but if there did need to be a three, it would be that Buck is The Man.