Well. I got back to work today and I’m glad to be back. The trip to DC was really nice. Having duty the first day back well, what can I say? Tonight has been very busy but not too sporty yet, although I am wondering as the night has a weird feel, which a resident that I have worked with a lot feels too. Hopefully we are just paranoid. I wrote this at my dinner break and thankfully I picked relatively uncomplicated things to write about tonight, I had it done by the time the cardiac response pager went off following some meetings and early rounds and patient visits. It’s about 2300 and I am just now sitting down to finish this prologue.
Today we graduated our Intern Class. I have gotten to know a good number of these young physicians during the past year during their ICU rotation as well as when I have been on call throughout the house. It was a privilege to be at the graduation at the invitation of the class leadership as I had been with them on their Dining Out back in April. To have one more time with them before they go on to residency, the Fleet Marine Force or Sea Billets as General Medical Officers or Surgeons, as well as those selected to become Flight Surgeons or Diving Medical Officers assigned to Special Operations, Diving or EOD units was really nice. Having spent a lot of time with many on the ICU I see the toll that the internship places on them and their families. These young physicians have done well and will serve our Sailors and Marines, as well as Soldiers and Airmen and their families well. Some will remain to complete residencies of various types and lengths, while those who do not initially get a residency will likely be on the front line of caring for our servicemen and women in harm’s way or on medical and humanitarian missions. Some will end up with the Marines in Iraq or Afghanistan and others serve as the “Doctor” for a ship or Marine battalion often far from any immediate back up or specialty care. I wish all of them the best. We have also had residents leave us for new horizons. Some will be going on to advanced fellowships while others will serve as staff physicians or surgeons throughout the world. It has been great working with many of them in their final residency year.
While these young physicians are leaving us, we have some who will remain on as residents here or fellowships. It will be good to continue to work with and get to know them over the coming years. Now the fun part, we have a butt load of brand new Interns who are reporting to us as well as some Residents from other institutions or coming back from their tours in the Fleet. I remember my time at civilian teaching hospitals where I served as a chaplain or did my residency. Pastoral Care Residencies typically start in September or October which takes them out of the cycle that most residents or interns have in the medical community. I hope that we will eventually have our program lined up so our new residents report the same time the physician internships and residencies begin and for our residents to have more interaction with them. I think the latter will happen sooner than the first mentioned with things that we are in the process of instituting. I really believe that the cross pollination of physician and pastoral care residencies will benefit both specialties as they meet at the intersections of healing, life and death, faith and spirituality. Tonight when I have been greeting every new physician I see and introducing myself to them. They come from quite a few interesting places and I hope to get to know them all pretty well.
Last night was a great event. Yankees ace reliever and “closer deluxe” Mariano Rivera notched his 500th save. He became the second pitcher to achieve this number as he shut down the New York Mets at Citi Park. To some this may not seem too much of an accomplishment. After all, the relief pitcher as a specialty and development of pitchers to serve in different relief roles is a relatively new part of baseball, really only going back to the 1970s. Of course there were relieves before, but they had a limited role as starters often would pitch complete games. Satchel Paige was an exception when he came to the Majors from the Negro Leagues spending most of his time in a relief role, and there are a few others but the reliever was in many cases a former starter who didn’t have the juice to pitch complete games later in their careers. Rivera is a special breed even as a reliever. He is a closer. This means that when he comes in he is either trying to save the victory or stave off defeat. He has to come in at a moment’s notice in any park, weather or situation often to deal with the heart of an opponent’s batting order. He has the 500 saves and a career 2.29 ERA. In the World Series he has 9 saves and a 1.16 ERA. It gets better. In the League Championship Series that he has pitched in he has 10 saves and a 0.97 ERA and in Division Series he has 15 saves and a 0.38 ERA. Since the playoffs tend to have the better and more competitive teams in them so these are amazing statistics. In the playoff he has 8 wins and only one loss. At age 39 he shows no sign of letting up.
What makes a guy like Mariano so special is first that he is nearly unhittable and his very presence on the mound gives confidence to the Yankees and sends a message to their opponents. He will if he has any say in the matter save or win that game even if he comes in early with the bases loaded and no outs in the 8th inning. Rivera is like a really hot ER or ICU team that has to save a life when the situation is at the worst or if not that bad where it could get sporty. I have always admired relievers who do the job well having had to go into a number of jobs where my predecessor both as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the Army or Navy Chaplain was fired. That is no fun when you have to go pick up the pieces. Relievers make their living doing this and Rivera has to be the best reliever who has ever lived. To top it off he is regarded as a nice guy, a leader and one of baseball’s good guys. And last but not least Mariano was not a “bonus baby.” He came up as an undrafted free agent. Some Trevor Hoffman fans may argue this point but the high intensity playoff game record speaks for itself. Nobody does it better. Someday Jonathan Papelbon may do so for the Red Sox, but he has many years to go before he hits 500 saves. He has the advantage of starting his Major League career as a closer and already has as of the end of 2008 114 saves and a 1.84 ERA. He is the real deal and hopefully will remain healthy.
Finally a closing thought for the night. I have wondered for some time just why the North Koreans can be so bellicose and ill tempered. They are threatening to incinerate us and upset that we have moved missile interceptors to Hawaii, like hello, Hawaii is 4000 miles away from North Korea. Needless to say the whole bunch of nations in the neighborhood is not real happy with the Dictator named Kim. The Japanese are upping their readiness, the South Koreans sending folks to the border and talking of pre-emption and even the Chicoms and Russians are not real happy. Some sources are even saying the Nutty North Koreans may launch and ICBM in our general direction around the 4th of July. That would not be cool.
So like I said, I was wondering about what makes the North Koreans so ill tempered. It finally came to me last week at Harbor Park when watching the Tides play the Pawtucket Red Sox. There were scouts from the Korean Professional Baseball league in the stands as well as Japanese scouts and American scouts. Then it hit me. Baseball is big in South Korea and they are getting pretty darned good in international competition. They are so good in fact that they have won the Olympic Gold Medal and finished second in the World Baseball Classic. In contrast the North Koreans don’t have baseball. If they had baseball they would be able to work off all that unhealthy stress and hatred, the Yin and Yang would come back into balance. What if Kim Jung Il had played little league and high school ball? Who knows he might be a manager in the Korean Leagues taking out all that anger on the umpires when they make a bad call or executing his closers when they fail. The South Koreans have been blessed by the Deity Herself with Baseball and I do believe that this has to be the difference. Even Communist Cuba is nowhere near as nutty as North Korea and this too I attribute to Baseball and Fidel having played ball himself. Maybe we should instead of negotiators send Baseball players, scouts and instructors to North Korea? It just might work. Look what McDonald’s and Coke did to the former Soviet Union….