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Field of Dreams

Though the lawsuit is easy to mock, seeing how one deals with failure is all too human.

MLB: Baseball Hall of Fame Press Conference Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Life doesn’t always go how we imagine it will. Most of the time we can handle the downs and disappointments of life just fine. The moments when things seem most dire can, and often do, make us stronger than we were before things stopped going our way. At the same time, people are, well, people. Everyone is different and what makes some stronger may completely break others. Garrison Lassiter was broken by the disappointments in his life.

Lassiter was drafted out of West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina. He had been a relative star at Forsyth, a major contributor to the baseball, basketball, and football teams. Clemmons is too big of a town, population about 20,000, for Lassiter to qualify for the epitome of small-town hero label. Still, in his high school days, everything came easy to the three-letter athlete and there was no reason to think that graduating to the real world of professional baseball would be any different.

For Lassiter, the sky was the limit and baseball was going to launch him into a great rest of his life. He’d been drafted by the New York Yankees only one year prior to their 2009 World Series title. In Lassiter’s mind, all the cards lined up just right for him. He was a stud athlete who chose baseball over other sports he was equally adept at. The Yankees were a world-class organization with an aging core that would need a star in the making like him. Sometimes there are obstacles in the sky that stop you from ever touching the clouds and Lassiter very quickly found out that was the case.

The former High School star spent five years in the minors, all within the Yankees system. All told Lassiter put up a .244/.326/.302 slash line in the minors. He hit four home runs and 28 doubles while his skills at shortstop regressed to the point where he was transitioned to third base. His glove wasn’t good enough for short, but his bat certainly wasn’t good enough for the hot corner. In the middle of a dismal 2012 season with the High-A Tampa Yankees, the big league Yankees had seen enough and cut ties with Lassiter. By the end where there had once been great promise despair and futility took hold.

What followed wasn’t known to many until Lassiter made his supposed plight public. A pair of lawsuits, one against the Yankees and the other against the Cincinnati Reds, revealed a man broken and beaten down. Lassiter would have everyone believe that he was broken and beaten by a Yankees franchise that refused to give him a chance to succeed.

The lawsuit against the Yankees put forth the notion that Mr. Yankee himself, Derek Jeter, had personally conspired to stop Lassiter from rising up the ranks of the Yankees system so as not to have shortstop competition (this was, mind you, at the same time when the Yankees were openly grooming Eduardo Núñez for the role). Later, the Reds supposedly contributed to the orchestrated fall of Lassiter. They refused to let him work out because he was too old—30 at the time—and because they had fallen prey to the same forces that drove him from the bosom of the Yankees.

It’s easy to read the above and paint a negative picture of Lassiter. That take is far too easy and focuses only on the more lurid aspects of Lassiter’s behavior. Rather, the truth of the matter as far as these eyes are concerned is that life beat down Lassiter and then finally broke him. Unlike those who are able to positively respond to hardships, Lassiter took the negative route. He couldn’t place the blame on himself when the Yankees cut him or when the Reds wouldn’t let him try out. He still can’t do that today because to do so is to say that he failed.

In all of his lawsuits and the documents he has provided Lassiter goes in hard on his high school athletic prowess. That’s where Lassiter has always seen himself, and where he will always see himself. Blaming others is easier than taking a hard long look at why he failed and getting the help he needs to get his life back on track.

If anything, Lassiter is a cautionary tale of how hard life can be and how easily life can get away from you when you aren’t able to cope with its hardships and maladies. Garrison Lassiter once had the whole world in the palm of his hands, or so he thought. Lassiter never learned this lesson, just as he never learned that it’s okay to fail because you weren’t good enough, not because the whole world is out to get you.