Eleven years ago, a fifteen year old girl stood alone at home plate to celebrate Barry Bonds’ 500th home run. That was April 17, 2001 at what used to be called Pacific Bell Park.
Alexis Busch greeted the home run king by bumping clinched fists.
A few days ago, hearts clenched again as the Giants paid tribute to a life lost way too early and in tragic circumstances off the Farralones Islands.
Alexis was more than just a bat girl for the San Francisco Giants. She was the daughter of Giants executive Corey Busch. While dad worked for George Moscone, daughter Alexis held the bats for the likes of Bonds, Jeff Kent and Rich Aurilia.
Larry Baer, president and CEO of the Giants said in his statement before a recent Phillies game, “Alexis grew up in the Giants organization and went on to become Major League Baseball’s first bat girl – a position she held with the Giants for several seasons at Candlestick and AT&T Parks.”
Alexis took up the bat girl position during the great rebuilding of the Giants between 1997 and the early 2000s. That was the period of time when general manager Brian Sabean took over after three losing seasons on the trot and in his first move traded Matt Williams for Jeff Kent, Jose Vizaino, Julian Tavarez and Joe Roa.
That was also the year they won the NL West, but lost out 3-0 to the Florida Marlins in the playoffs. A year later, the Giants lost a wild card playoff game to the Chicago Cubs.
Alexis’ greatest contribution to the Giants (and to baseball as a whole) was to change the vocabulary of the game. Until her arrival, batters were greeted by bat boys.
The job of the bat boy is to carry the baseball bats, lay out the equipment, and “mud” the baseballs being used in a game. Bat boys have been a part of the sport since the 1880s, the same decade the Giants were founded, incidentally.
Bat boys — and now bat girls — are usually drawn from the local area of the home team. They wear whatever uniforms are attributed to the team they are providing bats for and often have their first name or the letters ‘BB’ written on their backs.
Bat boys have not always been in the news for good reasons nor have they had such a good reputation, as Alexis had over the years. In 2000, Manny Alexander of the Boston Red Sox lent his car to bat boy Carlos Cowart. Police later found steroids and syringes in the glove compartment. In 2005, Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny dared a Florida Marlins bat boy to down a gallon of milk in one hour, leading to the bat boy’s suspension. Two former bat boys, Matthew McGough and Dominick Ardovino, have written books about their experiences for the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, respectively.
As for Alexis, she was “a true baseball fan, she was a passionate and dedicated member of our organization and she will be deeply missed by the Giants family,” according to Baer. The Giants CEO went on to say “along with each of the families who lost loved ones in this devastating accident, our thoughts and prayers are with Alexis’ loving family.”
Raised in Marin County, Busch grew up shunning softball for baseball. She played on boys’ teams and after being a bat girl for the Giants, went on to play catcher in the New South Wales Women’s Baseball League in Australia. Her thirst for adventure continued beyond playing baseball in Australia as she took up sailing. This led to her taking part in the treacherous Sydney to Hobart yacht race between mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania.
With this race in mind, Alexis joined the crew of the Low Speed Chase, an eight-person yacht taking part in the Full Crew Farallones Race. The regatta has been held west of San Francisco for over a hundred years and sports experienced sailors. While many are involved with rigging the sails and steering the boat, Alexis was charged with maintenance work below deck.
Strong and unpredictable winds began to buffet the boat, causing higher and higher waves as they passed the island. Then two large waves hit. The second wave dashed the ship on the rocks.
Only three crew members survived the accident. Nick Vos, Alexis’ long time boyfriend, the ship’s owner James Bradford and sailor Bryan Chong were saved.
Rescue crews later found the body of Marc Kasanin, but the other five members — Alexis, Alan Cahill, Elmer Morrissey and Jordan Fromm — were lost at sea.
Before their season opener, and almost exactly 11 years since that 500th home run from Bonds, the Giants observed a moment of silence before the Phillies game in tribute to Alexis.
The Giants went on to win the game 4-2.
Jane Harrison is a freelance writer from NYC who writes on behalf of a number of good causes including how to find treatment for an alcoholic. Every sport has those who have fallen victim to the temptations of wealth, fame and, sadly, alcohol and drugs. Harrison spent some time in England helping young athletes overcome those problems.
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