Pasttime – 88

Plane rides with teammates features the potential for a mixed bag of comedy, monologues and therapy sessions. And none of us have any control over it.

It happens off 747’s. The backseat of a Lyft line can either be extremely awkward or entertaining and educational because we can learn something from a stranger.

Or we can learn when to just sit back and let someone wail.

In this situation, I have long deferred to the occasional audible imprint to showcase my rapt attention. It takes no effort and usually can suffice by just finding a phrase and repeating it.

The monotony soothes the speaker, fooling them into believing that you’re fully engaged. That this full-fledged story that you have provided is truly worth my attention.

Because we each know that it’s not. It’s not anything someone would approach a complete stranger with, even if it was Tuesday Night Tacos at a sweet Mexican restaurant hidden in plain sight.

And if you wouldn’t say it there…

But while this rant may sound like opposition to incidental interaction with other adults, it’s exactly the opposite. That freedom to speak freely to one another needs to remain, regardless if the opposing party isn’t fully engaged and just stringing you along.

There’s a certain grace to a person that’s just willing to listen.

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Pasttime – 87

“You got roughed up but you did your job.”

That what Skip said to me in the locker room afterwards. Like that would make me feel any better.

When I entered the game, we were trailing 5-2 in the sixth and I was left with runners on 1st and 2nd with no one out.

It wasn’t an ideal situation, but they all can’t be winners right?

The brief mound discussion was about the pinch hitter strolling to the plate. A lanky chap with mutton chops, in a perfect world he would start at 5-4-3 triple play on my first pitch.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

He wasn’t bunting, but my inside fastball broke his bat and caused a slow roller towards third. So it may as well have been a bunt.

The result was 2nd and 3rd, 1 out. The next guy worked the count to 2-2 before reaching for a change up and popping it up down the right field line.

Chooch got to the ball, but was in no position to throw anyone out and the run scored.

Frustrated with my luck or lack there of any, I threw a first pitch fastball that was dinked into left-center for a run-scoring single.

I had allowed both runners to score and now we were down 5. What was once a close game was suddenly a blow out and I hadn’t done much wrong or right.

Skip left me in for the rest of the game. With an upcoming stretch of games, I was a much-needed day off for the guys in the pen.

But my job is to prevent runs. I failed that and we don’t celebrate failure.

Pasttime – 86

I’m not so old.

OK, I’m old. But I’m also old enough to see the good when I can see it or hear it.

Like the pop of the mitt of a really good fastball.

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It’s different. It’s mesmerizing. It’s something special and the only question is how long will it last.

About 20 years ago, I can remember witnessing…let’s call him Larry Mound, a young talent on the way up. Not a high draft pick, he just appeared one day in Triple-AAA with a great fastball and a flash of off-speed stuff.

He came up to the majors and shined right away, suddenly releasing a 12-to-6 curve that froze batters fearful of the radar gun reading and getting the bat on 100 on the black.

He mixed in a serviceable slider and it all came together the following season.

While prognosticators predicted everything, no one was loud about how great Mounds would be. So when it was clear from spring training that he wasn’t going to be touched, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.

Those that didn’t would be viewed as asinine.

Think Bob Gibson circa 1968 or Greg Maddux winning his fourth-straight Cy Young in 1995.

The difference between those Cooperstown residents and Mound was the following season since he wasn’t the same. Yes, there was the occasional rehash of what made him so successful, but it wouldn’t last.

It didn’t take long before he was just a page in the stat book, a memory for those that saw him pitch and a warning for others. Regardless how great you pitch today, your history is written by what you do tomorrow.

 

Pasttime – 85

I grew up in the Northeast and hit puberty in the late ’80s/early ’90s. I mention this mandatory time of passage only to illustrate a point.

You draw into your person and its personality from where and when you are from. A Spanish conquistador from the 16th century could never understand why conquering the Aztecs would be considered bad.

Conquistadors and Aztecs

Same as Puritans leaving English persecution didn’t see anything wrong with persecuting people that didn’t look like they did once they arrived in the ‘New World’.

Same as I can’t understand why Redman doesn’t get the respect he deserves as one of the greatest MCs ever. Why the Flava Unit conglomerate headed by Queen Latifah (Yes, that Queen) doesn’t get much love or why the Jungle Brothers seem to be easily forgotten when mentioning the Native Tongue family.

But none of that explains my love of Das EFX.

With one member from Jersey, the other from Brooklyn; they were where I was and where I wanted to be. With Timberland boots, baggy jeans and loose-fitting hoodies, they were avatars for my understanding of style.

And their rap style was unlike anything else.

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It wasn’t easy to repeat their lyrics, but if you listened to the tape enough you could get it done. They mixed pop culture references with hints of the gangster premises that resound to this day; all while spitting syllables at an accelerated rate.

Similar to a comet, their time on the radio and bumping from the cars of teenagers quickly came and went. However, they’re still in my rotation and if I ever get an at-bat, I’ve requested ‘They Want EFX’ as my walk-up music.

Is my affection for them because of my childhood memories or because I support those from my home more than others?

Pasttime – 84

The way for many within cities looking for an outlet for their athletic endeavors is the street. And not The Streets that are not only watching, but be talking now.

I’m referring to the concrete pavement that becomes a playground for millions…

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(And millions)

Of children regardless of their parents’ economic conditions. Now the concrete can become an open field or a dirt patch, but the point is with enough energy, initiative and plain old moxy, kids can get it done…if they want to.

There was a wall with a box painted on it that served as my first bullpen. I threw everything at that wall; balls for tennis, racquet and sometimes even base. But that slowed down when I realized that it impacted off the wall much different than it does off a bat.

But in the cities I play in now, those same kids my age looking for an outlet are likely deterred from buying a bat since it could cause fear.

I can remember pitching at my box facing batters brandishing sticks taken from brooms and mops. But kids with brooms and mops pointing up instead of down can be feared and viewed in interesting ways.

The way ‘They’ have truly stepped down on this is the removal of public outdoor basketball courts.

It was a gathering location for youngsters of all ages. It allowed a lonely child to commit to a repetitive process…if they didn’t find enjoyment in consistently throwing a ball on the black mark on the right.

cKluber

Pasttime – 83

The ultimate set up is the living conditions of the less fortunate. From food desserts to metropolitan areas with insufficient public transportation to gentrification forcing those same people out of their homes…

It’s a long list, but the final result is limiting the ways children growing up in this environment can get out and stop and/or reverse the trend.

I was fortunate to be raised by a single mother who did everything to ensure I wasn’t raised in those conditions. While that meant I didn’t see her as much as my other affluent friends, I am grateful for her sacrifice and don’t want to imagine what the other journey looked like.

Or what it looks like nowadays for those attempting to get out.

Between a backyard, a forest incorporated within the community to buffer the highway and full-service parks within walking distance, I had green spaces to run and play on. It doesn’t seem like much unless you don’t have it.

Then it seems like Nirvana or Valhalla or another ancient European word Americans have forcibly added into their lexicon.

But even without that, those that are adamant about their intentions will find a way.

Pasttime – 82

You have your best weapons and know how to use them. What you’re working with is how you make your bread and butter, or so the saying goes.

But what makes those things even better is when they get set up.

The obvious example is a high fastball to set up a curve, but there are countless others like the inside fastball to set up the slider.

But I can’t remember what that idea was an attempt to set up?