This column first appeared in the Joplin Globe on May 18, 2010.
Some men of a certain generation, I suppose, occasionally wonder how they would react if their mettle were to be truly tested.
I, for one, wonder that. I also wonder what, exactly, my mettle is and why someone would want to test it.
Monday night, my mettle was tested, and I think I reacted as I thought I would. I got the hell out of the way. My wife and I were at a Springfield Cardinals baseball game. I love going to Springfield Cardinals baseball games. For my money, Hammons Field in Springfield is one of the best places to watch baseball in the country. There truly is not a bad seat in the stadium, and Monday, thanks to our friends Don and Gloria, and friends of theirs who I can’t mention because folks would think I was sucking up, my wife and I had really, really good seats.
The seats were in a suite. See, Don and Gloria were given access to one of those fancy-schmancy suites for the Monday night game, and Don, knowing that I’m a large baseball fan and specifically a large St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan, invited my wife and me to join them at the game.
There was a time when I would have thought watching a baseball game from a fancy-schmancy suite was sort of above my raisings. There was a time when I thought watching a baseball game in a fancy-schmancy suite was — I don’t know — sort of Republican.
Ha! That’s just a joke for my Republican friends.
Who were in the fancy-schmancy suite.
But then I found out that they have free beer in most fancy-schmancy suites. When I found that out, I pretty much said, “Obama, you’re on your own.”
But I don’t want you to think I’ve gotten spoiled with all my fancy-schmancy suite sitting, free beer drinking, baseball watching. I’ll have you know that I spent almost the entire game sitting in the outdoor seats in front of the fancy-schmancy suite. And it was cold Monday night. And I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved Stan Musial T-shirt.
The only time I left my outdoor seats to go into the fancy-schmancy suite was to get a beer. Or another bratwurst for my wife. So, as far as I’m concerned, I’m still a man of the people.
One of the advantages of sitting in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field is that you are in prime foul ball territory. The disadvantage to sitting in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field is that you are in prime foul ball territory.
Here’s the deal. When a batter hits a foul ball, at least to the fancy-schmancy suite I was sitting in, the ball tends to get there in a hurry. These are not the types of foul balls that are typically caught by someone with his bare hands. Unless that someone does not intend to use his bare hands for the next year or so. What usually happens to someone in a fancy-schmancy suite at Hammons Field who tries to catch a foul ball moving faster than a BP oil executive for the border is that the baseball breaks the hand of the person in the fancy-schmancy suite and falls down to a 10-year-old kid with a glove. The kid picks up the ball while the paramedics are rushing into the fancy-schmancy suite above his head.
It was somewhere in the middle of the game. I was sitting in my seat outside the fancy-schmancy suite when a batter — I think it was Hank Aaron — hit a vicious foul ball in my direction. As the ball got closer, it was clear I had two choices.
Choice No. 1: Stick my hand through the aluminum bars next to me and make an athletic bare-handed catch that so impresses the Springfield Cardinals manager that he phones the big club and I’m immediately whisked away to St. Louis and penciled in to bat behind Albert Pujols.
Or Choice No B : Get the hell out of the way.
Here’s the deal. I didn’t just see the baseball coming in my direction. As it got closer, I heard the baseball. It was making that whoosh-whoosh noise that only things traveling very fast make.
There are not many rules of life that I choose to live by. But one of the rules I do choose to live by is this rule: If you can hear a baseball coming at you, get the hell out of the way.
And that’s what I did.
Oh, Don and Gloria and the guys whose names I can’t mention because people would think I’m sucking up: Thanks again for the invite. And I forgive you for making fun of me about the whole not catching the foul ball thing.
Oh, in case the rest of you are wondering, I got a C on my mettle test. I nailed the essay.