Yesterday, I encountered a career defining situation. We’re back in Washington playing the Wild Things, and during their batting practice yesterday, I walked down the concourse on my way to the ThunderBolts clubhouse to interview the manager.
As I descended the stairs toward the concourse, I noticed one of the Washington hitters knock a ball back and to the left, the same general vicinity that I was approaching. Instantly I knew that this ball was going to land near me. Now, I wasn’t at all afraid of getting hit with this ball, but you can’t just walk past a ball that dies at your feet.
I hoped that no one would notice, that I could just casually flip this ball back on to the field without the Wild Things even realizing that they were short one baseball.
It didn’t work out that way. As soon as I reached the ball, which was harmlessly rolling to a stop right in front of me, I looked out to the field and noticed an expectant Washington player holding his glove up, waiting for me to toss him the ball.
As a baseball broadcaster, I spend a great deal of my life surrounded by athletes. This makes my 6’1″, 47 pound frame and my 12 second 40-yard dash time all the more embarrassing. I never look coordinated – and for good reason, I’m not – but when you compare me to a bunch of pro ball players, I look even worse than I do in a normal crowd. Even though to glance at me is to know that I can not hit a baseball more than about 32 feet, I feel like I can get around this perception somewhat by not drawing any attention to it. Though I might have some fun taking a few swings in batting practice with the team or throwing the ball around on the field, I feel it is more important to keep the feeling of mystery that surrounds my athletic performance. If anyone saw me doing these things, all credibility as a guy who talks about baseball is lost. Admittedly, I have never been invited to take batting practice or throw the ball around on the field, and OK, I guess there really isn’t much mystery behind my athletic ability, but I like to pretend there is. If no one sees me play, than appearances aside, I may not be the worst athlete these United States have seen in the last 200 years.
But when a ball rolls to my feet and I have to throw it out to a Washington player on the field, I don’t have a choice but to throw it back. Although in the back of my mind, I realized that there was nothing to gain from this moment, I talked myself into thinking that if I threw a strike to this fielder, I would look like a star, that people would marvel at my ability to throw the apple and wonder aloud why no team had seen my talent and signed me to a contract.
Realistically, the only two scenarios were (a) I would hit the player’s glove from 65 feet away and everyone would go back to their business because pretty much everyone can hit a target from 65 feet or (b) I would miss his glove and look like a fool.
I kind of knew this as I picked up the ball, squared my shoulders and heaved toward the field. As the ball spiraled toward the ballplayer’s glove, for a fleeting second, I thought I had made a perfect throw. I hadn’t. It skipped in about a foot short of the mitt and, my face red with embarrassment, I was on my way.
I don’t think any of the ThunderBolts saw me, so for now, my reputation as the gawky kid who announces the games on the radio remains intact. But I know that at any moment, if the wrong opportunity presents itself, I could become the gawky kid who announces games on the radio and is an abomination on the field. Then I become a laughingstock. I’ll keep my eyes open for such situations and hope they never come, because yesterday’s situation makes one thing clear: any exhibition of my non-talents will be the death of me.