There are certain pieces of news that affect you more than you think they would or should.
Learning that Greg Jelks passed away today was one of those instances.
When the Defensive Specialist received notification that Jelks had passed this morning, the day took on a strange opaqueness, full of feelings of mortality, confusion and sadness. Sure, as one ages, the loss of those in your sphere takes on added weight because you begin to realise that you are not immortal. But why did the Defensive Specialist feel so dented?
Upon reflection it was because the man was part of the fabric of Western Australian and Australian baseball. It would be so simple to regurgitate the numbers to highlight how good he was. But it was his PRESENCE that made him stand out from the crowd. Unlike many other imports that graced our shores, Greg Jelks stuck around. Year after year, he was the guy you showed up to see. It was this aura that outshone just the numbers.
The man was beast mode before any of us knew what beast mode was. He was swag before swag was a thing.
As a youngster, he was the dude that only buttoned two buttons on his jersey, wore high tops (when wearing high tops with pants that were too short was kind of cool), splashed the gold chains and hit the angriest fucking line drives you’ve ever seen! His home run trots seemed like they took 35 minutes and the way he fielded ground balls was smoother than soft served ice cream.
As the Defensive Specialist got a little older, Greg Jelks became a team mate. He still hit the angriest fucking line drives you’ve ever seen but it also became apparent that he was a pretty good team mate too. He was still as cool as they come, but also a great teacher who wanted to help you get better. As strange as this may be for some of you to believe, there was a time when the Defensive Specialist was struggling at the plate, only to have Jelks say “move your hands back a little” after one particularly tough at bat. The next time up the Defensive Specialist went big fly. Maybe the advice worked, maybe it was luck – more likely it was the confidence that came with having a dude with that much gravitas pay attention to your swing and take the time to share his thoughts.
Today was spent reflecting on the impact Greg had on the baseball community. So many people shared their memories of nights spent watching him dominate the ABL. So many more told stories of him showing up at teeball clinics, training sessions and coaching clinics.
Rest in Peace Greg Jelks, you impacted the game in this country both on and off the field.