Pour one out for the 209 area code. Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden says he's leaving his hometown of Stockton, Calif., because he's fed up with the inability of authorities to handle escalating violence plaguing the community that raised him.
Somewhat ironically, Braden — who was carrying a baseball bat, he said, for protection — was nearly ejected from an anti-violence rally Wednesday in his beleaguered hometown near the state capital of Sacramento. Among a crowd that included his grandmother, Braden shouted his displeasure at the police chief who was up on a stage speaking to residents.
[Jeff Passan: Rising outfield star left A's system to become a monk]
The CBS-TV station in Sacramento was there:
"We'll have you escorted out if you don't wait until the end," said Chief Eric Jones.
But the A's pitcher continued his outrage after the anti-violence rally, making it clear who he is.
"My name is Dallas Braden," he said.
Braden says he no longer feels safe in Stockton, where the murder rate is on a record-setting pace.
Braden wasn't on the verge of swinging the bat at anyone, but if the cops actually followed through on their promise to "escort him out," you have to wonder what would have happened with emotions running hot. Braden is obviously a very passionate man.
Braden became widely known to baseball fans in 2010, first when he tangled with Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees over a perceived slight on the pitcher's mound at the Oakland Coliseum. Later, of course, Braden threw a perfect game against the Rays and basically dedicated it to his grandmother and his hometown. He has the city's area code — 209 — tattooed across his midsection and the A's have offered special ticket deals for Section 209 when he has pitched.
Braden has stuck up for his community in the past, using his fame from the perfect game to try and affect change. And he's still trying. Even if it means threatening to leave.
Unable to pitch for the A's during their playoff run as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, Braden probably feels just as helpless to slow the violent crime rate where he lives. It might sound like bluster to us cynics, but you heard the TV news talking heads — if Braden follows through on his threat to leave, it will be a big deal in Stockton. If leading citizens refuse to live there anymore, what hope does the place have of turning itself around?
In defense of the police, though, how much does their lack of effect have to do with state budget constraints?
While shouting at cops and bringing the bat along for protection (and to prove a point) might not be the best tactics to reduce violence, it certainly brought attention to the local crime plight. Then again, maybe it's all over for Stockton except for the shouting. That would be too bad.
Big BLS H/N: The Score
Fantasy Baseball video from Yahoo! Sports:
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Regular NFL officials return to hero's welcome in Baltimore
• Ronda Rousey forces herself into MMA's best pound-for-pound debate
• Yahoo! Sports' picks to win NASCAR's AAA 400
• Y! Travel: Airline business-class cabins that will make you jealous