Two men with a lot in common have patrolled the infield for the Yale baseball team, but they have done so sixty years apart. Both hail from the Houston, Tex. area. Both were brothers of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity in their years at Yale. Both majored in economics. Both even served as team captain their senior years.
One of those two men is current Yale shortstop Cale Hanson ’14. The other is the 41st President of the United States, former first baseman George H.W. Bush ’48.
So maybe there is a difference.
“He was in Davenport though,” Hanson said. “I’m in Pierson, so I don’t think I like that.”
Putting these differences aside, the two men were able to sit down this past winter break in the former President’s office in Houston to discuss Yale, leadership and baseball.
Although the 89-year-old has slowed down in his elder years, he was quick to tell Hanson what was on his mind when he had his aides organize the meeting.
“The very first thing he asked me when I came in was ‘How’s the team looking?’” Hanson said. “This is an ex-President of the United States and he’s asking about Yale baseball.”
For about 15 minutes on Jan. 8 — Hanson was scheduled to meet Jan. 7, but the visit was moved due to an impromptu visit from the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. — Hanson, along with his father Doug, sat down with the former Eli captain who led Yale to two runner-up finishes in the College World Series in 1947 and 1948, the first two years of the premiere tournament for college baseball.
Yale has not returned to the national tournament since then.
Looking to change that this upcoming season, Hanson did not waste an opportunity to pick the brain of Yale baseball’s most prestigious alumnus.
“I actually asked him for a little bit of a wisdom,” Hanson said. “I was like, we’ve had a couple of rough seasons. I want to be a good captain. I want to be a good leader. What’s some wisdom that I can pass down to these guys?”
Bush’s answer was neither groundbreaking nor particularly unique, but perhaps it was the most appropriate thing Hanson could have been told as the Bulldogs attempt to claw themselves out of their recent slump: “Never give up.”
Bush may have some extra motivation to pay close attention to the Elis this season. For Hanson, the meeting was the gift of a lifetime, and one he felt the need to reciprocate in some manner.
Hanson brought Bush an Ivy League game ball, signed by each member of the 2012-’13 Bulldog squad the day he was elected captain this past spring. Along with the ball, Hanson proclaimed to Bush that this year’s Yale team was dedicating the season to the President.
“I told him we want to dedicate this season to you. You’re obviously an awesome inspiration to all of us,” Hanson said. “When I said that, his eyes kind of lit up and he said, ‘Well I want to make it out to a game.’”
What might go unnoticed about this get-together between two Bulldog ballplayers is the impact the meeting had on another Hanson — Doug.
Mr. Hanson, who likes to refer to himself not as a motivational speaker, but as a “transformation coach” in accordance with his self-started company, the Doug Hanson Performance Group, struggled to put into words just what the situation meant to him.
“As a father, it was one of the proudest moments of my life to see my son shaking hands with the President,” Mr. Hanson said. “I literally had tears in my eyes when they greeted each other, not because of notoriety or publicity, or because we are huge Bush fans, but because it was a perfect example of how goals, effort, discipline and character always lead to a better place.”
With Cale’s collegiate career coming to a close, Mr. Hanson said this could be his son’s final year playing baseball, depending on the MLB draft. While fighting off the inevitable end that each baseball player, and athlete in general, faces, he said his son has put a lot of pressure on himself to have a great enough season that he can say all of the sacrifices he made for baseball paid off.
That may no longer be a problem.
“On our way home from the visit with the President, we talked a lot about how life plays out in peculiar ways, but that it always rewards good choices, sometimes in ways that you never even dreamed,” Mr. Hanson said. “Regardless of what happens this season, or in the subsequent MLB draft, he knows all the work was worth it.”
For Hanson, the meeting proved to him what he had known all along — that Yale was a special place.
“Obviously not a ton of kids go to Yale from Katy, Texas,” Hanson said. “The way I describe it is we may not be learning anything different from what you could learn at the University of Texas or Texas A&M, but it’s the people you’re around and the connections that you make and the people that you’re learning from, and there’s no better example than this.”
Those treasured Yale connections brought Hanson right to the President’s doorstep, providing the moment of a lifetime for a father and son.
Hanson said this experience would not have been possible anywhere but Yale.
“If I was the captain of any other school’s baseball team, I would not have gotten to meet President George H.W. Bush,” Hanson said. “It’s just that Yale network that you can’t put a price tag on.”
Hanson and the rest of the Bulldogs are currently putting the finishing touches on their offseason preparation as the first pitch of the new season will be tossed Feb. 28 at LSU.