I was in Stockton last night not just to see the Ports and Visalia Rawhide, but also because Stockton’s own Dallas Braden was being honored at Banner Island Ballpark.
The stories are out there for those who want to read them, telling of Braden’s rough childhood and struggles with school along with the guidance his grandmother gave him to help get him on the right track. It’s culminated so far with a starting spot on the Oakland A’s pitching staff and now taken to another level thanks to his improbable perfect game on Mother’s Day against the Tampa Bay Rays.
As much as last night’s ceremony was because of that game, the more important, underlying story is Braden’s embracing of the city he grew up in, the 209 as being more than just an area code, and the amount he gives back to the place that raised him.
Some people would run as fast as they could away from a rough town once making it in something, but he’s done the complete opposite. Now more than ever, Braden has shown even more love for his roots. Need more evidence? This is from his speech last night:
“This is where I come from. It’s like that country song goes, ‘These are my people. This is where I come from.’ I’m proud to put you guys on my back any day of the week. I’ll go to war with you any day of the week and I want you to be there by my side day in and day out as we succeed, because that’s what we’re doing together as a city as it comes up, and we’re gonna keep coming. So let’s go. We’ll all be perfect together.”
I fully believe this day would have happened sooner or later anyway, but the perfect game sped things up just a bit. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if, after his playing days are over, Braden becomes even more deeply involved in doing whatever he can to continue to help Stockton.
I’ve put up 25 pics from the pregame events here: 5/22/10: Stockton Honors Dallas Braden
Also, here are a couple links to a video of the full presentation by the Ports, and a story by the Stockton Record that includes a shorter interview clip with Braden along with the key to the city presentation.
It was truly a special night.