(According to OurSportsCentral.com, the Minnesota Twins are holding a big league try-out on Saturday, June 7th. As Fort Myers is only three hours away from Tampa, I am definitely going. And in anticipation of my pursuit of becoming a Twin, a Red Wing, a Rock Cat, a Miracle, or a Snapper, this week I am presenting a three-part story about the last time I tried to seize my big league dream.)
“Seventy-five,” came the call from behind the backstop.
“Let’s see your curveball,” the head scout stoically said. His tone of voice made it clear he was just going through the motions and that barring a miracle, I wouldn’t be pitching in Turner Field any time soon.
“I don’t throw a curve,” I embarrassingly replied. Things could not get worse.
“How about any breaking pitch?” he asked.
“Well, I know how to throw a slider,” I said. I lied. I had never thrown a slider in my life, although I did know the correct grip and release of the pitch.
Thinking fast, I strode back upon the mound and threw the best slider I knew how. Surprisingly, my wanna-be slider actually acted like a slider, breaking about four inches or so before reaching the catcher’s mitt. Unfortunately, the pitch traveled at only about 60 miles per hour – minor league fodder and hardly the stuff of a future Brave.
“Ok, what else can you throw?” the scout asked.
“I have a change-up,” I admitted. Hardly one to blow people away, I was actually quite proud of my ability to throw a circle change. After learning how former Brave Tom Glavine gripped his all-star caliber change-up, I learned to master the deceptive arm speed necessary to strike out everyone on my block. Unfortunately, games on my block were played with a tennis ball, not a baseball.
Using Glavine’s grip on an actual baseball, I hurled my change-up towards the plate. Good location – lower outside corner with a little sinking action at the end. I was proud of myself. But a good change of pace does not a major leaguer make. I still had to break 80 with a fastball.
After receiving the ball from the catcher one last time, I took a deep breath. This was it. All my baseball aspirations coursed through my veins. Long hours of practicing. Years of little league semi-dominance. Thoughts of pitching Game Seven of the World Series. It all hung on one pitch. One fastball.
The slow, easy, rocking wind-up …
The pitch … a strike.
The four syllables that crushed my big league dreams.
With a look of disappointment, I slowly walked off the mound.
Sensing my sorrow, the head scout turned to me.
“You know you could always pitch in a local adult league if you still want to play.”
After the tryout concluded, my practical side re-emerged and I asked the scouts for any contact information they could provide that might lead to a job with the Braves. At least I succeed somewhere, scoring an address and an email to a Braves human resource officer.
A few months later, acting on the scout’s advice, I signed up for the Tallahassee Adult Baseball League. Without even trying out, I played a season and a half of adult baseball before my academic commitment forced me to prematurely retire. During that time, I found myself back on the mound twice, pitching two innings, allowing three runs on four hits and five walks. It was the end of my baseball career. But although I haven’t set foot on a pitcher’s mound since, I still haven’t given up hope. One day the Braves may call.