On the last day of camp, the campers suit up and take on the pros at Tradition Field, the mainstage at the Spring Training facility. Each team plays a three inning game against the pros, and I've been looking forward to this for two years.
Since we finished third, ours was the third game. Last time, I had to leave early, and since we had finished last I would have missed my plane, so I had to ask onto a team that was scheduled to play earlier. It just wasn't as much fun taking the field with some other bunch of guys.
Thinking back, it really reinforced the notion that this experience is just as much about the cameraderie on the team as it is about hobnobbing with your childhood heroes, if you can believe it. We had a great time playing together, but we seemd to have almost as much fun sitting on our stools in front of our lockers hanging out and drinking in the experience.
There was a fair amount of Robert Bly working at this camp - baseball camp is kind of the Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan version of running into the woods banging drums, if you ask me. I remember one moment when I was sitting there talking to John Brooks about my dad and how I know how much he would of liked to have been there, and by then it was too late - I started to choke up a little and Brooks got this sort of stricken look on his face, and we endeavored to change the subject.
But in my mind, that vibe was hanging in the air all week. About half the guys, it seems, were there for their fortieth birthday, one of those untidy milestones that reminds us that we're no longer young. And what better way to deny one's own mortality and imperfect relationship with our own fathers, (who, if they're still alive, are aging before our eyes) than to put on baseball pants and hang out with Felix Millan and Ed Charles?
Me and The Glider
It's hard to kid yourself that you're a kid, though, when you can't get out of a chair because you're too sore. As much as I was excited about playing on the big field against the big guys, it took me about five times as long to put my pants on as it normally does, and I had to brush my teeth with my left hand, because my right arm was not cooperating properly, having pitched twelve innings in two days. So game day with the pros produced somewhat mixed emotions - I was thrilled to stand on a field with them and maybe even pitch an inning, but boy was I tired.
We dressed slowly, partly because we couldn't move any faster if we wanted to, and partly to savor the moment. Then it was off to the field one last time.