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Passion is a powerful force that reveals the extremely fine line between good and evil; friend and foe; master and slave. Passion turned Walter While, your average high school science teacher into Heisenberg, a maniacal drug-dealing assassin in khakis and a pork pie hat. Passion is Walter Wayne Backman’s worst enemy and slim hope.

Backman’s 14-year major league career ended two decades ago, but his passion for the game of baseball has not died, In fact, it’s living in Las Vegas. The former New York Mets second baseman has been kicking and screaming – literally – as a minor league manager since 1997.  Backman has served eight years between the Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks organizations and another seven years in Independent League baseball.

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“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” — Abraham Lincoln

Rob Concannon is in the position he’s in because of where he’s been – and where he’s been is now legend. The stories have been chronicled and preserved in a frame on his office wall.

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In 1976, Bob Myrick found out the hard way how Grote felt about losing when the Mets rookie pitcher beat his catcher in a game of Backgammon, causing Grote to explode, sending the board and its pieces across the room with a single swing of the arm.

“I just sat there staring at him – hard,” remembered Myrick. “He got up and picked up all the pieces, and we never had a cross word. He was a perfectionist.”

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Talk about being unprepared? Benny Ayala stepped off a plane at LaGuardia airport just hours before first pitch and raced across the street to Shea Stadium. While his teammates finished batting practice, Ayala found his locker and, for the first time in his life, put on a Major League Baseball uniform.

“I was nervous,” said Ayala, during a phone interview from Puerto Rico. “I had to rush in late in the afternoon. I didn’t have time for food before the game. I just got there and put on my uniform.”

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