Adrian Cardenas Broke Up a No-Hitter, Quit Baseball

Adrian Cardenas
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I didn’t know Adrian Cardenas. I’ve probably seen him play. In his first game in the Majors on July 31, 2012, as a Cubbie he broke up a A.J. Burnett no-hitter at Wrigley, a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning. I have a habit of starting to watch games where a no-hitter or a perfect game is possible starting in the seventh inning.

So I probably saw that single to right field. In fact, here it is.

Yesterday he wrote a piece in the New Yorker why he quit baseball at the age of 24. He gives two reasons:

I quit after trying to balance my life as a professional baseball player with my life as a student during the last three years of my career. In the spring and summer, I played ball. In the fall, I studied creative writing and philosophy at New York University. But with every semester that passed, I loved school more than I loved baseball, and eventually I knew I had to choose one over the other. As I submerged myself into an academic environment, I thought often of my parents, who knew nothing about baseball but raised me with a passion for music and language so great that sports seemed irrelevant by comparison.

I quit because baseball was sacred to me until I started getting paid for it. The more that “baseball” became synonymous with “business,” the less it meant to me, and I saw less of myself in the game every time I got a check from the Philadelphia Phillies Organization, the Oakland Athletic Company, or the Chicago Cubs, L.L.C. To put it simply, other players were much better than I was at separating the game of baseball from the job of baseball. They could enjoy the thrill of a win — as it should be enjoyed — without thinking of what it meant to the owners’ bottom lines. These players, at once the objects of my envy and my admiration, are the resilient ones, still in the game. I am no longer one of them.

There is so much romanticizing bullshit that surrounds sports. Look at what’s going on with the Boston Red Sox, how they’re trying to connect the horrific Boston Marathon bombing with how the team’s World Series win pulled the city out of mourning and back into normalcy.

It’s easy to fall into these mythologizing traps and perpetuate these falsehoods. Look at most of the talking heads at ESPN. But sports isn’t an allegory of anything. It doesn’t explain humanity.

It’s a game that supports a business.

Sure, it can cause 50,000 people to cheer on command. It can bring together a fan base for a moment. But to think it can actually heal an entire city is laughable and preposterous.

It sounds like Cardenas couldn’t separate the ugly realities of the game versus the mythology. It’s better to quit than fake it.