This is a story about a young, naive baseball player; One who was too young to have recognized the sadness this wonderful game could provide.
I was playing pool on a Friday night with one of my best friends, Andy, when I got the call. The call was from my father. That always made me a bit nervous. It turned out to be the most exhilarating moment of my life. My father called me to tell me a Chicago Cub’s scout had flown into Spokane and wanted to meet me and my father at a local hotel. I remember looking at my friend, Andy, and he could tell I was bursting with happiness. He said, “what the heck?….What’s going on?” I told him the Cubs are in town to see me. (One of the many great things about my friend was when I told him that, he looked like he was even more excited than me). He said, “well let’s get your ass to that hotel……you really are on your way to the show.”
My father and I met this scout at the hotel, and at eighteen very young years of life, my hopes of making it to the major leagues were shattered. I’m a pretty good judge of reading people. That scout gave me his official Cub’s card and looked me up and down like I was a race horse or on a trading block.
I had terrific baseball stats, but I was not a tall or big boy. It was then when I realized my destiny was not to get to that top level of play. This is extremely scary to a boy who thought, with great confidence, it’s not if I’m going to make it, it’s when I’m going to make it. Well, I didn’t even come close.
The second eye test was through a view finder. He asked me if I wore corrective lenses. I said yes. STRIKE TWO! The interview ended with this. “We’ll keep in contact with you”. That was strike three for me. Even at eighteen, I wasn’t really a dummy.
The car was silent on the drive home. I was the kid who slept with a Dodger’s batting helmet on my head. I had a baseball bat glued to my hand since I was about four years old. I could emulate the swing of every major league player since 1977. So, what was terrifying me was the thought of “What the hell am I going to do now?” What are my other options? Do I become a Cowboy or an Indian? I knew my dream was over.
Draft day was strike four. Many friends and relatives were questioning me as to what round I would be drafted. After meeting with that scout, I knew. But, many loving people payed attention to that day of drafting, and my name was never mentioned. I disappointed many people who thought that’s where I belonged.
I did receive a scholarship to play college baseball, but I knew that was not where I belonged. I succeeded one year and failed miserably the second. Officially, my baseball career was over. I think I cried, but I can’t truly remember.
Let’s set this record straight, I did NOT belong to play at that level. I have no excuses. I was good, but clearly not that good. Dozens of times, people have asked me, “why didn’t you make it?…..what happened?” Now, the usual response of an ex-hopeful professional athlete is something along the lines of, “Well my shoulder went out on me”, but I always tell old friends, ” I just wasn’t good enough”. That’s the truth. No excuses. This is a physically and mentally tough game.
Writing is even tougher, but that’s all I have left. That and a nice wife, and a very fortunate life.
After many years, I couldn’t watch a ballgame. I felt betrayed by countless years of swinging a bat. I have since forgiven the game and have become a teacher of baseball. My only remaining sadness is that my wife never saw me play centerfield. Fortunately, we go to many ballgames and I enjoy describing what a player should do in certain situations. I quiz her on how to execute the next play. “What should he do here….bunt, swing away…..make certain he is unselfish and hit a sacrificial fly?” It makes this game fun again. Even our dogs appreciate the countless fly balls I hit them for retrieval.
I’m lucky I didn’t make it. I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Take me out to a ballgame….