Sometimes while perusing the internet, you can come across an amazing story. I know I did this weekend when I saw a story about Wade Vadakin. I have never met Vadakin, but I have been lucky enough to see him perform his job several times over the years,
When I decided I would write this week’s column about Vadakin, I was told by one person who will remain nameless that people would not be interested in my column because it did not concern anything to do with Phenix City, Russell County or Smiths Station. I reminded the person that the majority of my columns throughout my writing career had absolutely nothing to do with local area athletes. So, I am writing about Vadakin because he has an amazing story to contribute to the world.
Vadakin, 40, was affectionately referred to in the article I read as “the Mobile BayBears’ Director of On-Deck Circle Operations for 22 years.” That one description hooked me and reeled me into the story. Like I said, I have seen him do his job several times over the years and he has done it well.
If you have ever watched the BayBears play baseball at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile – and on the road at any of the other Southern League stadiums – you have seen Vadakin as well. There is no way you could avoid seeing Vadakin. He drew attention to himself as he performed his job. Whether Vadakin was stroking the invisible strings of an air guitar on a player’s bat after retrieving it after an at-bat or riding the player’s bat like riding a horse back to the BayBears’ dugout, you noticed the Mobile bat boy.
You either noticed him, and loved what he was doing or you thought of him as annoying, but you noticed. Vadakin drew attention. And he loved it. He was there to entertain the fans – especially the BayBears fans. If he entertained the opposing team’s fans, that was a bonus for Vadakin.
Vadakin has worked hard at his trade despite a list of health problems. He has congenital brain-stem damage, diabetes and visual impairment to name a few. I know how diabetes can affect the way you feel when blood glucose levels are too high or too low. To think that Vadakin could perform his job night after night the way he did is on its own an amazing feat in my eyes.
Vadakin has lost his job with the Mobile BayBears now that the Double-A Southern League franchise has relocated to Madison County near Huntsville and will compete this season as the Trash Pandas. However, he was quickly picked up to continue his job as a bat boy in the Southern League by the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in 2020. The Blue Wahoos’ franchise and its fans will be blessed to have someone like Vadakin working and performing for them.
Vadakin’s story makes you realize handicapped people are sometimes more handicapped by the views people have of them than they are handicapped by their handicaps. Vadakin will never be the president of a Fortune 500 company, but he can perform a job no matter how insignificant you may view that job. It is a job that someone must do whether it is the next player to bat or a pre-teen who volunteers or someone as dedicated to the job like Vadakin.
The biggest reward Vadakin gets is being able to associate with the many Minor League Baseball players who make there way through the Southern League each season. Remember while you cheer on the next rookie sensation to play in Major League Baseball for the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins, to name a few teams, Vadakin has most likely already seen them play, met them and perhaps established a life-long friendship.
This summer when the Southern League honors its Hall of Fame Class of 2020 on June 23 in Jackson, Tenn. which will include Major League Baseball Hall of Famers Sparky Anderson and Edgar Martinez, current Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker and former Charlotte O’s owner and general manager Frances Crockett Ringley, there will be one more name on the list – Wade Vadakin. Vadakin was chosen by way of the Southern League’s Special Consideration Ballot. I wish the story I read said Vadakin was selected unanimously for the honor. It did not, but it did not say he was not either.
All I can say in closing is that I, for one, am proud the Southern League chose Vadakin for its Hall of Fame. I am sure there will be a big smile on Wade Vadakin’s face as he gallops back to his seat at the ceremony riding his award like the Lone Ranger rode his horse Silver. And everyone in attendance will be smiling as well as Vadakin continues to take an opportunity to entertain a crowd of baseball fans.
Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.