I've always admired Roger Maris, so I'm writing his wife just to let her know how much of an inspiration he really is.

As I sit here typing up this column, a formal letter is saved to the hard drive of my MacBook awaiting completion.


But this isn’t an ordinary letter. This is a letter to Pat Maris, the widow of baseball legend Roger Maris, to let her know that even to this day her husband is a true hero.


Perhaps it might sound odd to just randomly write a letter to the wife of a great ballplayer who has passed on, but I feel that she needs to know that his stamina, his character and his will to push forward past a nation full of doubters is nothing short of motivational for anyone, especially to a young man who encountered a few bullies and doubters himself as he tried to make the high school baseball team and eventually earn a college degree in journalism.


Baseball has always been a real love in my life - and anyone who is or has been in love knows you just can’t explain why you feel that way, you just do I guess that makes baseball all the more wonderful and beautiful, and of course like anyone who’s wrapped into the suspense and amazement of this glorious game, I dreamed of one day being a professional baseball player and yes, I still dream that periodically to this day. Growing up I read books on just about everybody, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and thanks to my dad, I heard stories of how he experienced the great St. Louis Cardinal teams of the late ‘60s, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Curt Flood and Roger Maris. I was always intrigued by these great players, the way they played baseball, the great things they did, and so to the local library I went. I can’t remember the amount of hours I spent there or the many books I checked out, but there was pretty much a guarantee that I was coming home with a book about baseball and as I got older and continued to read and watch documentaries, it was Maris’ story that really began to catch my eye as I entered high school.


I could really relate to Roger’s story. The way he was treated during that historic 1961 season, the stress and pain he went through. People didn’t want him to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record and they let him know. From the boos in the crowd to hate mail to the unorthodox operations of the press at that time, Maris endured a lot just so he could play baseball, but he went against all odds and proved many people wrong. He hit those 61 home runs, overcame the pressure and made baseball nation stand corrected. And because of that I found heroism in Roger.


I worked really hard my junior year of high school just to make the baseball team. I ran the hallways everyday after school, learned to hit every possible speed at the batting cages (made it up to the 90 mph cage) and tore up several balls on the school steps just to train myself in the many directions the ball could go as it leaves the bat. Roger was already a big motivator because of his work ethic, but he also inspired me to be strong as many of the kids made fun of me, laughed and called me several names in my efforts just to make varsity. I’ll never forget one kid in particular who referred to me as the varsity female dog (keep in mind that’s the edited version) as I worked out or when we crossed paths in the hallway. But I didn’t let him or anyone get to me.


Thanks to Roger’s courageous story I kept going and I made that baseball team. The coach only found me useful during batting practice or if we were up or down by an insane number of runs, but none of that mattered. I was on that team and I was good enough to wear that uniform. I only hope that my wearing of Roger’s No. 9 was enough of a salute to a true baseball hero, I unfortunately didn’t get so see play.


Down the road of life, I learned that one day playing under the lights of a Major League Baseball stadium will probably just have to remain a dream. So to the realm of journalism I entered. I began to win a few awards in college and gain a ton of experience on many levels of mass media, and just like my efforts to make the high school baseball team I unfortunately found some hurdles to climb. Many of the kids I went to college with always had something negative to say to me. There were insults about my journalism approach, pranks here and there and a lot of resentment because I had encountered a lot of success and hadn’t even graduated yet. The stresses of class didn’t help either. But again, thanks to Roger, I kept going. There were no words or actions that were going to stop me from getting a college degree and when I walked across that stage, all classes finished, I made doubters stand corrected once again.


Most of those ignorant folks that tried to get me down didn’t even pursue a journalism career. I don’t know where some of those kids are today, but I know I came out of the rough trenches of doubters, just like Roger, and am able to stand tall every day.


This is why I’m writing a letter to Mrs. Maris, to let her know that even in death, Roger is still a great man and a true hero to all who wish to succeed. I’d like to one day travel to Fargo, N.D., and pay my formal respects to Mr. Maris. Hopefully it’ll be the same year he gets a plaque in Cooperstown, an honor he so greatly deserves. But that’s another column for another time.


Dominic Genetti writes for the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post