I want to start by saying that I am incredibly honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as the great Roberto Clemente. I wear the number 21 proudly in his honor.

No matter where I've been, people of all faiths and walks of life have told me that things, both good and bad, happen for a reason. In January of 2010, the Florida Marlins gave me the opportunity to visit the men and women of our Armed Forces over seas in Kuwait and Iraq. I did some research and found out that despite the fact that we have Military veterans in our Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, no active players had ever been to the middle east to support troops. I learned right away that the service men and women did not care that I played Major League Baseball, they cared that I showed up in person to support them. The experience taught me that most of the time a person's most valuable philanthropic asset is their time and love. I also learned that although it is the athletes that receive all of the glory and praise for their abilities, it is the men and women of our Armed Forces that should be receiving the nightly standing ovations. While in Iraq, we slept in a bunker in order to protect us from mortar shells that occasionally are lobbed over the base walls with the intention of killing or wounding the sleeping soldiers. It was the first and only time in my adult life that I went to bed scared of the dark. I made a commitment when I got home to do the best I could to support the veterans in our community. It was then when I was first introduced to Standown House and Roy Foster. During spring training I spent some time with the men and women there and knew immediately that I would do whatever I could to both promote and help their noble cause: to make sure that no military veteran in South Florida is ever left behind.
On May 15th, I was placed on the disabled list with a nagging injury to my right elbow. At the time I thought I would be back with team in a matter of weeks, little did I know that I would miss the rest of the year. Part of my recovery process called for six weeks of complete rest. The rest period weighed heavily on my psyche. I love the game of baseball with all of my heart, and in nearly ten years of professional baseball I had never missed more than two or three games. I again received a phone call from the Marlins, they asked if I was interested in helping spearhead their Homes for Haiti campaign. The intention of the Homes for Haiti project is to build a Haitian village with twenty five concrete family homes. Since I had a few more weeks of rest, I agreed and hopped on a plane with Food for the Poor bound for Port Au Prince. I wish I could say something positive here, but the truth is that the situation in Haiti is both bleak and heavily disturbing. I had no idea that Haiti was a mere hour and ten minute flight from Miami, closer by plane than any of our division rivals. Tents abound, rumors of government corruption run rampant, and many people there are homeless or starving. While the situation is bleak, the spirit of the people is strong. I met children that smiled and laughed despite recently losing their entire families. I learned immediately that no matter how bad one thinks their situation may be, someone very close is going through something much more difficult with a smile on their face. This lesson has helped me immensely as I recover from Tommy John surgery. Anytime the rehab seems too tough, or the injury too painful, I think back to the kids I met and their positive attitudes and I gain hope.
Please take the time to vote for me for the Roberto Clemente award, winning this award would garner national attention and funding for both Standown House and the Marlin's Homes for Haiti project. I am pushing as hard as I can to give back as much as I can, because these experiences have taught me so much. Sometimes as players we are so concerned with wins and losses that we forget to take a broader view of our surrounding community, I hope to never make that mistake again.

So it has been quite a while since I updated the blog and I apologize for that. However with the move to Miami and the season starting, my job has become much more important than keeping a website updated. A week or so ago I finished Jon Krakauer's biography on football star/Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

If I can offer any advice it would be to read this book before you read Lone Survivor. Krakauer supplies a lot of Afghan history, spanning back to their war with Russia. On a side note, some one recently told me that in Rambo 3, Rambo heads to Afghanistan and fights with Al Qaeda against the Russians...weird. The historical information is excellent and really provides the reader with a solid foundation of Afghan history. It helps one to learn why the people there fight.

Pat Tillman himself is incredibly interesting. The book takes us through his early years in New Almadan, California where he excelled in both the academic and athletic arenas but also faced an arrest due to a physical altercation outside of a pizza place. When granted a second chance by the judge, he went on to Arizona State, then to the NFL, then to the Army and the rest is history. Throughout the book Krakauer uses interviews with the Tillman family as well as Pat Tillman's personal diary to paint a beautifully tragic picture of a true patriot and free thinker abandoned by his government after the ultimate sacrifice.

I felt pretty disillusioned after reading this book. Pat Tillman's death was attributed to fratricide, but only after years of the Tillman family fighting with the Army for the information. Our government tried to use him and Jessica Lynch to build the morale of the general public. I keep thinking, Pat Tillman was an NFL star, and it took years for the real information to finally come out, what about the regular soldier, how does his family know if the story of his death is what the Army says it is? Pretty scary.

I really liked about 90% of this book. The part I didn't appreciate was Krakauer's liberal pontification. It is one thing to write a "non-fiction" book, and another to write an op-ed piece. This book dances on a very thin line. I get it, Krakauer doesn't like the Bush Administration, but when you read a chapter in a book about Pat Tillman that complains about Al Gore losing the election on a technicality you begin to get a little skeptical.

All in all despite any political views this book is a must read. Pick it up in paper form or on your iPad, Kindle or whatever form of media you people use!! Buy Book Here

Lone Survivor Book Review

JohnBaker | 3:06 PM | 0 Comments

I received some great advice from a good friend about this book, he told me to take my time reading it and really enjoy it. Thank God I did.

Marcus Luttrell is a Navy SEAL and an American hero. He nearly died for our country and lived to tell about. He was part of a four man SEAL team that went into the Hindu Kush mountains with the goal of finding (and possible killing) a high ranking Taliban official. Seven days later, he was the only one left. Friends die in his arms, he is shot, blown up, and beaten. He is taken in by an Afghani town and their courage and hospitality are truly remarkable. I strongly recommend reading the book. You can get it here for twenty bucks....WORTH IT!!!

I would write more about it, but I really feel that I have already spoiled too much. Despite what you may think about our recent wars, always remember that real people must fight them. The heroes of SEAL team 10 paid the ultimate price for our freedom, their story is amazing.

I have a few ideas for you.

Food has always been an important part of my life. My family likes to cook and I like to eat. When I go away for the season, I always search for new places to eat. If you are in Jupiter for a weekend to see some baseball, here is where you should go.

1. Little Moir's Food Shack or Leftovers Cafe

-Both restaurants serve the same type of food (they are both "Little Moir's Restaurants"). Fresh seafood prepared with seasonal, local ingredients. Fish is caught daily in the Atlantic, then cooked to your liking that night. You simply can't find better seafood in this area. I know, I have looked. The places are a bit pricey, but worth it, I think the entree that I always get, the sweet potato crusted fish over greens, is around $27.

Here are the addresses. Get there early, like 5PM early, because you will be fighting the masses to get in after that.

Food Shack - 103 S US Hwy 1, Jupiter, FL 33477-5132
Leftovers Cafe - 451 University Blvd. Jupiter, Florida 33458

2. Vic & Angelo's

Vic & Angelo's offers home made pasta and the best chicken wing appetizer around. Again, a bit pricey, I think the wing appetizer is like $15, but worth every penny. I don't like writing about the wings because it makes me want to eat them. The home made pasta is amazing, and if on the day you are going they have the lobster risotto special...GET IT!!!!!!

Their address is 4520 PGA Blvd Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418


JohnBaker | 3:45 PM | 4 Comments

Having gone to Iraq and seen real heroes, I have been inspired to re-evaluate how I feel about myself. The other day our team held a Bible study headed by Brett Carroll, Chris Coghlan and Pastor Chris Lane. We talked about a lot of different things, but mainly focused on the Sermon on the Mount. The most interesting part of the story (for me, in addition to the content) was the fact that Jesus was not preaching to the multitudes, but to his disciples after he saw all the masses near the hill. Jesus spoke to his close knit group of companions, and in this case let them spread the word. I found this interesting because in my line of work, people are constantly promoting themselves, so much so, that they start to believe all of their own self created hype. We, as baseball players, take ourselves much, much too seriously! We chase a little white ball around a field. We are not rescuing people in Haiti, fighting a war, or even teaching kids how to count. All of those jobs are much more worthy of the millions of dollars baseball players make. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do and I'm incredibly to grateful to have played one day of Major League Baseball. I also don't want anyone to think that I think baseball players are over paid, the game of baseball makes a lot of money. No players, no games, no revenue. Dan Uggla earns what he is paid.

My point is that society has it backwards. I understand that the success of a particular home baseball team can bring joy to a particular group of people or a city (see Boston in 2004). However, Jesus had it right, heroes by society's pop culture standards are not heroes in reality. I got this from icasualties.

"The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Eric L. Ward, 19, of Redmond, Wash., died Feb. 21 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C."

Lance Cpl. Eric L. Ward, 19, died for me and you. He is my hero.

As Jesus said:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Now that spring training has started I though it would be important to reflect back on the things I learned this off-season. This should be an interesting list because I have not written anything down ahead of time or tried to prepare. Here goes.

5. Training unconventionally is really, really fun:

My strength coach and friend Kyle Barbour told me this off-season that he thinks it's a shame that people feel like they need to go to a gym to stay in shape. He is right, How many big box fitness gyms existed in 1965?? People were fit and in shape then, they didn't need elliptical machines or dumb bells. Get outside and do something active, run around in a park and do some push-ups. There is a reason it is called "The Great Outdoors", being out doors can be great. Snowing? Come on, I am sure you can figure something out, I've heard shoveling snow is a helluva workout. The whole idea reminds me of a quote. Take note of the date, "Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men". - Marcus Valerius Martialis (40 AD - 103 AD)

4. I really have fun playing beer pong:

Yeah, this one is not that deep, but until this off-season I had never played. I watched a few buddies on the east coast participate in a serious game before we flew back to California and fell in love. We play it whenever we have a party and it is a lot of fun. I can't believe I missed out on it in College, maybe because the Frat Houses at Cal where not that inviting.

3. Muhammad Ali is the Greatest boxer and sport psychologist of all time:

He was the best because he believed he was the best. Win or lose he never lost faith in himself or the things he was fighting for, you may disagree with his stance on Vietnam, but must agree with any man that will stand up for his principles. He once said, "Whatever the punishment, Whatever the persecution, Even if it means facing machine gun fire for that day, I will face it
before denouncing Elijah Muhammad and the religion of Islam, I’m ready to die!" Here is one any aspiring athlete should take to heart, "If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize." He is inspirational to say the least.

2. The older you get, the more you miss your family when you leave:

When you are a little kid, you cry and get home sick when you are kept from your family for an extended period of time. When you are a young adult you can't wait to get out of the house and on your own. When you are out of the house and on your own, you just want to be near your family. It hurts to pack up your life and say good bye to your family. I get to spend four months out of the year around my family and in-laws. As much as I love what I do for a living, those are my favorite four months of the year.

1. My life is pretty easy and I take too many things for granted:

We always think we are the hardest working, or the smartest or that we have overcame great obstacles in our life. I have been overly judgemental of some younger baseball players in the Big Leagues because it took me seven years to get to that level while it took them only one or two. I often resented the fact that they had an easy road, while mine was "so tough". THEN I WENT TO IRAQ. When I came home I realized that though I worked very hard to achieve my goals, I have never had to sacrifice my safety or possibly my life for a group of people that generally under appreciate what I do. I have selfishly chased my own dreams while our Armed Forces have provided a safe environment for me to do so. It seems weird to think that taking a trip would completely flip my outlook on life, but it has and I really like the new view. I now know what tough is, what it looks like, and my life has not been "tough" by any means.

So I get an e-mail from 1LT Sion Branan and here it is for all to read. I have included a picture of me at Camp Saad standing in front of any Iraqi Platoon. I feel guilty, all we really did was say thank you to a deserving group of American Heroes. I don't think I could really ever thank them enough.

This guy is my hero...enjoy!

To John Baker,

“On behalf of 1st Platoon Baker Company 1-77 AR, I want to thank you and the Florida Marlins organization for visiting the Soldiers at Joint Security Station Saad. Your visit was a big morale booster for the guys, and it really meant a lot to them to see the Florida Marlins come all the way out here to JSS Saad to spend some time with the troops and show their support. The USO brings celebrities all of the time to Iraq to visit the troops, but unfortunately they always go to the massive, fortified, built-up COB's (Contingency Operating Base) with 10,000+ soldiers living comfortably on them. No one ever comes out to visit the small, outlining platoon-operated JSS's that do all of the work and actually run all of the patrols and missions to protect the COB. We have been in Iraq for 10 months now, and your visit was definitely one of the highlights of our deployment. In my opinion, it was the best day we've had in Iraq so far. I haven't seen the guys as excited as the day of your visit. They were in high spirits after you left and they wouldn't stop talking about the Marlins and the Mermaids. Thank you for bringing a little bit of enjoyment and appreciation to the Soldiers of 1st Platoon. Your support to them means more than you know.”

1LT Sion Branan
Infantry Platoon Leader
JSS Saad
Basra, IRAQ


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