It Says A Lot When Your Wine Rack Is Bigger Than Your Trophy Case
I do my best work with my mouth and a keyboard--not at the same time--and realized long ago that athletics wasn't going to be my ticket to notoriety. Indignity, yes, but not notoriety.
Yet for all I do to avoid being between the lines, such an occasion was thrust upon me Monday night when I was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Brewers hosted the Twins at Miller Park. Fellow hosts John Mercure and Jeff Wagner joined me on the diamond and I'm proud to report all of us performed the task without injuring an athlete, scarring a spectator or achieving perpetual digital shame on YouTube with some sort of embarrassing heave. All balls arrived where thrown without hitting grass/dirt/onlookers en route.
Not that it came easy.
A sense of dread hung over me like Spanish moss as the weekend waned and Monday dawned. My life is flecked with occasional incidents of jock ineptitude, starting in middle school when when a rainy day meant indoor gym and a variation of baseball in which your fist was the bat and a volleyball was the horsehide. I came up in the bottom of the final inning, bases loaded, my team trailing. A mighty swing sent the ball on a line smack dab off the basketball backboard that served as center field--the only place the teacher had said would serve as an automatic home run. As I triumphantly headed for home I passed a lollygagging teammate/base runner and negated several tallies. The game ended as a tie.
I played softball--make that, I watched my friends play while I wore the same uniform--from grade school through high school. We won a tournament which brought me one of the handful of trophies I own, even though I never played an inning. I could field just fine, but making the throw from second base on those few occasions when I got into a game could be a dicey proposition--I vividly remember making a great stab only to launch the ball over the first baseman's head and over the fence behind him and into the stands. The sight of that ball still rising as it left the diamond was in my mind as I strode onto the Miller Park infield Monday night.
I'd warmed up briefly with my son in the parking lot and kept reminding myself all the things I tried to teach him when he was a kid--funny how stuff comes full circle. The internal mantra ran continuously between my ears: stay on top of the ball. The pre-game tosses were fine, almost TOO strong, in fact, to the point where I could seriously following through with my on-air threat to launch one that would hit the screen and scare Front Row Amy into early next week.
"Hit the mascot," were my son's parting words as we three headed into the stadium, an homage to "Bull Durham" and a very sweet attempt at getting me to laugh/relax.
The moment came, the arm reared back and the ball arrived in coach Joe Crawford's mitt with a surprising "thwap!". "You throw a nice little cutter," Crawford said as he autographed my sphere, more a tribute to how hard I must've been squeezing the ball as to my technique.
And so it was over. Eternal Internet shame may await, but it won't be because of Monday night. A brand new official Major League baseball sits in the man cave, pristine as it was when it came out of the box (Crawford's autograph not withstanding). No grass stain. No dirt scuff. A lonely addition to my paltry gaggle of evidence of athletic accomplishment.
Within walking distance of the wine rack.