I live in Tacoma, within walking distance of Cheney Stadium. I don’t get to go to as many games as I would like…my wife would divorce me. Don’t get me wrong, the missus loves baseball, just not as much as me.
When I was 12 I stood in the left field bleachers at the Kingdome, yelling at Phil Bradley. It was early in the season, we were losing, and I was just trying to get his attention, something about hustling after a foul ball…he was ignoring me. I know he could hear me, because there were only a couple thousand people there and it was pretty quiet.
Crack of the bat and he catches the third out of the seventh inning, turns and tosses me the ball, which I promptly drop. Fifteen feet down the gap between the outfield wall and the arena floor.
Suddenly all two thousand people are crowding around the rail waiting for one of the ushers to toss it back up. He does, right to me. And I DROP IT AGAIN. I DID catch the third toss, but Bradley just kinda smiled and shook his head. That’s when my dreams to play in the Big Leagues died.
However my love of player interaction was born.
Matt Kemp stands out, even among 20+ other athletes of similar size. He is bigger, faster, stronger. And I am louder. It’s 2006 and he hadn’t been up to the Dodgers yet. The Las Vegas 51’s are in town to play the Rainer’s and after warm-ups I tell my son to watch him. I yell out “Hey Matt, take it easy on us”, and he turns and tosses me a ball. And I caught it. First try. I gave it to my son, who got Matt to sign it.
He went on to hit a jack and 5 RBI’s, and I became a fan.
I’d be fine with inviting Bradley to Peoria. Next man up.
Regardless, Spring Training began yesterday. And on Monday full squad reports. I have spring fever.