Salt Lake Buzz outfielder Brian Buchanan is used to fame. There's the trophy room that looks like a corner of the Smithsonian. There are the constant requests for charity appearances. And when you talk about the 50 best players of all time, he yawns and buffs his nails.
Yes, Buchanan is used to fame -- as long as it's not his own. He is a Triple-A baseball player with hopes of becoming a star. His father-in-law, on the other hand, has been one for more than three decades: John Havlicek."He has a trophy room in his house that's unbelievable," says Buchanan. "I've seen it maybe 50 times and still, when I go there, I look at it. It's cool. Maybe he can shine some light on the career I'm having. He knows how frustrating it can be."
It's hard not to sympathize with Buchanan. He's a laid-back guy with the temperament of a suburban Southern Californian. But he grew up in northern Virginia, played his college baseball at the University of Virginia. There he met his future wife, Jill, whose last name happened to rhyme with "traveler's check."
"Yeah, I knew who he was," say Buchanan. "I didn't really see him play, but I knew about him."
He and Jill were just friends at first. Buchanan was playing in a summer game in Nantucket, Mass., and there was a fishing tournament there that weekend, which included the famous Havlicek. She introduced the two and the rest is history. Actually, everything is history when you're talking about Havlicek.
"But he wasn't intimidating," Buchanan says. "He's not that type."
When the couple did start to get serious, Buchanan decided to ask Havlicek for his daughter's hand in marriage. No trip to Vegas for a quick "I do" for this couple. When you're dealing with a Celtic, you do things the traditional way.
"He's an old fashioned guy," says Buchanan.
He was at Havlicek's Cape Cod home for a weekend visit, hoping to pop the question when they got a moment alone. But Havlicek was leaving town that night. As it turned out, Buchanan had to make do while the food was grilling.
"I don't even know if he gave me permission or not," he says. "I was too nervous to hear the answer."
If he wanted, Buchanan could put a lot of pressure on himself. Here he is in Triple-A baseball, trying to make a name in an organization that has had little success in recent years. His father-in-law starred for one of the most famous and successful teams in history. How do you live up to that?
Still, Buchanan says Havlicek doesn't lecture. Hondo hasn't changed his mode since Johnny Most was shouting, "Havlicek stole the ball! Havlicek stole the ball!" and the Celtics were ruling the world. He's still rather low key and unassuming. The extent of his advice on how to succeed in pro sports amounts to subtle encouragement.
"He's just like any father-in-law, or my dad. He just says to keep working hard and do the things you need to do."
What? No motivational speech? No regaling him with tales of championships of days gone by? He could remind Buchanan how he was also selected as a wide receiver by the Cleveland Browns in the 1962 NFL draft, but he doesn't. And did you know by-the-way that the all-time Boston Celtics' scoring leader isn't Bill Russell or even Larry Bird? Nope. It's Hondo.
That said, Buchanan isn't doing too bad on his own. Last year in Salt Lake -- his fifth in pro baseball -- he totaled an impressive 17 home runs and 82 RBI. He drove in five runs in a single game and went on an 11-game hitting streak.Comment on this story
Buchanan was out this week with a groin injury but returned Thursday. He is on an 11-game hitting streak and batting .292 with five homers and 31 RBIs. He has five three-hit games and 12 two-hit games.
So does he plan to follow his father-in-law's footsteps to the Hall of Fame? Become one of the 50 best players in his sport? That's a big stretch, he says. But he does expect a nice career in the big leagues, just the same.
"I wouldn't be playing if I didn't think I could make it," he says.
Then he can start working on a trophy room of his own.