As a teenager I attended a private high school known as the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia. The derivation of “Yeshiva” is from a Hebrew term with the root meaning of “sit”. Hence a school in which pupils sit and learn. There was a distinct two class system in the school between those students who were the locals and those who were from out of town. The locals commuted and were subject t0 daily secular societal influences, whereas the out-of-towners lived a more insular existence in the school’s dormitory.
For the out-of-towners, the school served as part of a feeder network toward one of the premier schools of higher religious learning in the region, located in Lakewood, New Jersey. The Philadelphia high school was essentially the “minor league” or farm system, in baseball parlance, for making it to Lakewood. For those of us who were locals, the Philadelphia school was more of a sandlot experience. We had in those days little if any aspiration to immerse ourselves full-time in the Talmudic experience at college age.
The paradox of this arrangement is that in the world of baseball, the relationship of Philadelphia to Lakewood is the inverse. Since 2001, Lakewood has been the proud host of the Blue Claws, a class “A” South Atlantic minor league affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Lakewood has proven to be an impressive feeder network toward the Big League club in Philadelphia. It’s alumni include major league pitchers Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and its most famous alumnus, Philllies first baseman Ryan Howard.
I thought about the paradox this evening, upon learning that news that Ryan is going to be in Lakewood tomorrow night on a brief rehab assignment before rejoining the boys in Philly. Prior to the game, the Claws will hold a ceremony retiring the # 29 that Howard wore as a first year player in 2002. Though it has no religious connotation, the event at FirstEnergy Park tomorrow will be an ordination for # 29, consecrating a ballplayer who is someone special among his peers. For ballplayers in Lakewood, it is either a stepping stone or a step back before moving forward again.