While going though one of my many daily scrolls through Twitter on Wednesday night, I saw Bobby Valentine posted on his account video of him walking with protestors in Stamford.
I smiled and thought to myself “That’s such a Bobby thing to do.”
Valentine chuckled last night when I shared this with him.
“I wanted to be there in case anyone wanted to talk about a perspective or two,” said Valentine,” a Stamford native and the athletic director at Sacred Heart University. “I got to talk to some of the marchers, got their perspectives. I wanted to be sure that it was going to be safe. I don’t know what I could have done if it wasn’t safe. I felt if I was there maybe my voice would be louder than anybody else’s. I wanted to be there in support of the situation. When I was marching in the ’60s and the ’70s you thought things would change and regrettably they haven’t. I wanted to show my support to those who want justice.”
Valentine said he knew a march was taking place, drove down and parked on Atlantic Street. He remains passionate about the city where he established himself as one of the top scholastic athletes in state history, a launching pad to a major league baseball career that was cut short by injury.
Six years later Valentine became manager of the Rangers and later with the Mets and Red Sox, with two stints in Japan in between.
Valentine is a successful restauranteur, has a baseball academy, a movie production company and I’m sure many other ventures.
Valentine continues to have one of the most booming voices in the room, and it is heard because of the respect he has earned at each stop in compiling such a varied resume.
This was not Valentine’s first march but it was 50 years since his last. I asked him to make a comparison.
“You have to understand the justice I was marching for in ‘69, in L.A,” Valentine recalled. “It was the justice of getting our guys out of Vietnam. Once the guys started coming back and you started hearing about how terrible that situation was, you had to try and voice your opinion. But remember those were also the days of the anti-establishment. The change was supposed to be made in the late 60s and 70s. We were supposed to be the ones that recognized inequality and injustice.”
Valentine said he took part in a march a year later, in Eugene, Oregon, during a Triple-A road trip, though he cannot recall what the social cause was.
Valentine said he witnessed the same fervor Thursday that he did five decades ago.
“I’m 19 or 20 years old,” Valentine said. “If you’re not trying to change things, what are you doing? It’s their world that needs to be fixed. To get out there and say I want to see something better is a good place to be, and I saw a lot of young people marching, being very enthusiastic about their cause and I think that’s spectacular for Stamford and spectacular for the country. The idea of someone in a uniform brutalizing another American has been going on for a while.”
Few people have a better track record of getting things done than Valentine. It was such outside the box thinking and great foresight that led Sacred Heart president John Petillo to pursue and hire Valentine seven years ago this month to fill the opening for athletic director.
It was an unconventional choice at the time, but an enlightened one. At the introductory press conference, the first question Valentine fielded was not about his vision for sports at the school but to qualify why the move was nothing more than a publicity stunt.
It showed a lack of knowledge about Valentine’s past, and how when he takes on a task he immerses himself in it. Sacred Heart has improved facilities, a stronger program and who knows how much money he has helped to generate for the school. It is building a hockey rink and there is a new state-of-the-art health and recreation center that bears Valentine’s name.
Valentine said he recently sent out a letter to the school’s athletes.
“It’s time. It’s time,” Valentine said. “I told students if you’re in college right now you’re in the second inning of the game. The decisions that you make, the pitches that you throw, the moves that you make in the next seven innings are going to determine the score of the game when you’re my age.”
Valentine said he has never considered entering politics. I asked if he had any ideas how to solve the injustices that have caused a nation to take to the streets and protest.
“I have given it thought but I don’t want to make it all public,” Valentine said. “Because I’m not certain that I have the right answer, but I think I’m getting closer day by day. I recognize the problem, the solutions are a lot more difficult.”
How does Valentine feel about the future? He explained, tapping into his baseball background.
“I’m hopeful,” he said. “It’s going to take a good effort and the only way to win at a game is when you have teamwork and the people who are working together are trusting the person making out the lineup. I’m optimistic that we can start getting that trust re-established so we can have the teamwork it will take to accomplish this.”