Friday, January 4, 2013

Hope the Mariners treat Bonderman better than Schott did

Former A's first-round pick Jeremy Bonderman is attempting a comeback at the age of 30 and he signed a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners just before Christmas.

Even though Bonderman never played in the big league level for the A's (Billy Beane traded him to Detroit in 2002, a year after drafting him), he has always been one of our favorites. It was easy to root for Bonderman because of how badly Steve Schott -- then the A's main owner -- treated him.

According to an ESPN article by Peter Gammons, Bonderman and Beane were close to finalizing his post-draft contract, which was to include a $1.5 million bonus. But Schott was holding up the signing, Gammons reported. The reason? Bonderman is dyslexic and, as Gammons wrote:

Bonderman also remembered reading, before agreeing with Oakland, that the reason the deal was stalled was that owner Steve Schott was quoted as saying he "didn't want to give $1.5 million to someone who can't read or write."

Schott's comments were ignorant, to be sure. They also were remarkably mean-spirited and a sign of how quick Schott was to jump at any reason, even one that was callous and clueless and fictional, to save a penny here or there.

Here's how fact-free Schott's damaging comments were about Bonderman: Medical professionals define dyslexia as a developmental reading disorder. Though it presents challenges for learners of any age, the condition is common and in no way a reflection of one's intelligence. Dyslexia, in fact, is shared by a wide range of accomplished people and great thinkers -- ranging from Nobel laureates to legendary political leaders to military tacticians to famous authors, inventors, musicians and entrepreneurs.

Most people are aware of this. Steve Schott, apparently, was not. Gammons wrote:

Oakland general manager Billy Beane and scouting director Grady Fuson eventually convinced Schott that Bonderman was worth signing, and the insensitive, boorish comment from the A's owner was put aside.

Gammons wasn't the only one who covered these negotiations. Gary Washburn of the Contra Costa Times described Schott's stalling tactics as "ugly and hopeless." Bonderman, then just 18, was stung by Schott's insults but he persevered. A couple of years later, Bonderman eventually gave his take on Schott's comments:

"He is entitled to his opinion," the 20-year old said. "But I didn't think that was fair, or right. Did it hurt? A little. Sure. He doesn't understand what it's like to work through being dyslexic."

Bonderman prided himself "on working as hard as I could, trying to overcome a learning disability." He's still working hard. Bonderman encountered arm problems in 2006, and his last game appearance was in late 2010. Now, after two years out of baseball, he is trying a comeback in his home state, with Seattle. When he plays the A's, we'll be cheering for our Green-and-Gold, of course. But for any other games, we'll be rooting for him. 

After all, Oakland A's fans have something in common with Bonderman. Both groups were treated horribly by Steve Schott and, all these years later, both groups are refusing to give up. Good luck, Jeremy Bonderman. You represent all that's good about baseball.    

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