The speech has been an inspiration for Nationals utility man Mark DeRosa since he was an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania playing both football and baseball. It was given by former President Teddy Roosevelt on April 23, 1910 at the Sorbonne in Paris. One small part has long resonated with athletes everywhere.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
DeRosa has used those words to inspire himself before big games since he was in college. Not on Washington’s postseason roster for the National League Division Series against St. Louis, the 37-year-old veteran was looking for some way to contribute. So he did what he does best: Sent a message to his friends with equal doses of sincerity and humor. DeRosa once again took over the clubhouse speakers that sit around the corner from his locker and – using the karaoke mic he often uses to bring his teammates to their knees with laughter – he recited Roosevelt’s words. With his own deranged twist, of course.
“They won’t listen to me if I don’t throw a few jokes in there,” DeRosa said with a laugh. “Everybody has a different way of going about it. Maybe some guys in this clubhouse don’t think that way. But I think it works.”
And so as teammates dressed and others came running out of the trainer’s room or the shower or bolted from their seats in the small dining room, DeRosa told them who said these beautiful words. The same guy…er, mascot….who has won the last three Presidents’ Races at Nationals Park, including on Thursday to thunderous cheers from the sellout crowd.
“It’s fitting, perfect. [Mascot Teddy] is 3-0 – or 3 and 800 now,” DeRosa cracked. “After I read that I said ‘You know who spoke these words? Teddy. F’in. Roosevelt!’”
At that the room broke up and DeRosa’s mission was accomplished. The tension of an elimination game, for a few moments, had broken. His love of that Roosevelt speech had come full circle from his days at Penn. And it was one more way for one of the team’s few veteran voices to contribute even if he can’t play. He’s played a similar role with fellow pinch hitters like rookie Tyler Moore all season.
“I got to give something, right? I feel like if they’re going to keep me around and keep me here there’s a reason for it. I’ve been in these games. I’ve grinded with guys,” DeRosa said. “I’ve been on that team. I know how [catcher Yadier Molina] thinks. I know how [pitcher Chris Carpenter] and those guys think, playing with them. So, yeah, if I can bounce anything off them – down to remembering the bunt sign. Just stupid stuff. Sometimes guys don’t always want to go to the coaches. They’d rather come to a player to work them through an at-bat or see if they’re flying off the ball or something. So maybe go down in the tunnel throughout the course of the game and look at some video, maybe get a feel for what guys are doing good, bad, indifferent.”
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