During times of difficulty or struggle, many of us sometimes feel that our life may not be worth very much, but luckily we have family and friends to show us otherwise. Now, imagine already having a troubled past, struggling in the present, not knowing where you may end up in the future and having someone place a face value on your life equivalent to that of 10 maple bats.
By now, I am sure that most of you, if not all of you, have heard the story of the 26 year old minor league pitcher, John Odom, who was traded last season for 10 Prairie Sticks maple baseball bats valued at approximately $700.00 (including shipping costs).
John initially took it in stride. He appeared to take it so well that he agreed to do interviews regarding the trade and even joked about how it would make a great story if he ever did one day make the majors. Despite going from prospect pitcher to punchline, Odom dismissed all notions of despair and suicidal feelings. He was told that this was not done as a publicity stunt or to embarrass him , but three weeks after the trade and after one especially miserable night being taunted in Amarillo, Texas, Odom disappeared and merely five months later, he was dead.
While some argue there is no proof that the trade is what directly caused his death, many are concerned that it affected him more than he let on, and rightfully so.
People seem to forget that baseball isn’t always fun and games. Reliever Donnie Moore shot himself and sadly died, three years after giving up a big home run that kept the Angels from winning the 1986 American League pennant. Boston All-Star Bill Buckner became a scourge after letting a ball roll through his legs in the 1986 World Series. In 2003 Steve Bartman, fell off the face of the Earth after trying to catch a foul ball and (possibly) cost his team, the Cubs, its first National League championship since 1945.
If being completely devalued wasn’t enough to cause John to kill himself, the awful night in Amarillo, followed by months of binging on drugs and alcohol and seclusion were defintely enough to cause him to do himself in. The medical examiner has named the cause of death an accidental over dose from heroin, methamphetamine, the stimulant benzylpiperazine and alcohol, but whether this truly was accidental or if this was just a cocktail put together by a young man that just no longer cared, we will never know. His life over the last few months and final days are left to the imagination. There is no record of where he was living, where he is buried, and his family and friends cannot be reached.
The infamous ten bats, on the other hand, can be easily located in a warehouse in Orlando, FL. They were never used and have now been purchased by Ripley’s Believe it or Not! for $10,000.00 which has been donated to the team’s children’s charity.
Quite the story has developed from the trade, unfortunately, it was not the great story that John Odom had hoped for. The story did not have the happy ending that he had once aspired for. Instead, it was a story of humiliation, cruelty and defeat. A life has been wastefully lost and all that remains are 10 pieces of wood.