I retired a career .300 hitter.
It’s not as impressive as it sounds, but for me, it was all the validation I needed at the tender age of 12 to make the A team coach and all the jocks in my 8th grade class go suck eggs.
I was arguably the least popular kid in my grade school, and for good reason. I don’t really believe in reincarnation, but if I did, this is my soul’s first time through as a human being. Judging from my tendency to be completely oblivious to the outside world much of the time, I think one of my past lives was as a great white shark, the sole purpose of whom is finding other fish to devour. That or a fly who just repeatedly rams into a security light at night until he hammers into the luminescence one to many times and then goes into a death spiral to the earth below. If I was the shark, I was a chunky shark and would have eaten other fish, life buoys, discarded tires, you name it. If I was that fly, I would have been trying so hard to mimic the other flies that I probably would have enjoyed the death spiral like it was a roller coaster. To say I was kind of socially awkward is like saying a redwood is kind of a big tree. When it came to sports, forget it. Despite the fact that I sucked at every competitive activity save for maybe bingo, I was determined to prove myself a worthy adversary to all the jocks who routinely mocked me. Yet pick-up baseball game after pick-up football game after pick-up badminton, I was last or second to last picked every single time (and yes, I know badminton is a 1-on-1 sport. I’m trying to make a point here.) I can’t really say I blame my classmates though. Until I hit pre-pubescence, I couldn’t hit water if I fell out of a boat and I had this inexplicable tick of snapping my fingers when I was running at midfield, totally open and uncovered to catch a pass in football games. Every 5th game or so, the quarterback would throw to me and I dropped the pass almost every time.
Obviously, I am totally over it. I mean, come on. What grown ass man ruminates over this stuff at 43 years old and writes a blog post about it?
Back to the yard. When selections were made for students at St. Dymphna elementary school
as to who would be on the baseball team, the heartless gym teacher who coached the team chose every single 8th grader except me and one other boy. That other boy, wisely (or so I thought at the time) said screw it and opted not to play baseball at all. I, however, was so desperate to be included in anything athletic because athleticism was the currency of popularity among little boys at St. Dymphna’s, that being relegated to the bench on the 7th grade team was all the validation I wanted.
I’ll say that again for emphasis. I was the 8th grade bench warmer on the 7th grade baseball team.
The whole season went by and I hardly say any time on the field and I was granted only three appearances at the plate. The first two times, I struck out swinging. The third time, we played the A team of 8th graders from my school and I not only made contact but hit a double! Now, since I had never been on base before, I had no earthly conception of why my teammates were screaming from the dugout “Take a bigger lead!!!” I, of course, had no idea what “take a bigger lead meant.” I was still dumbstruck that I was on base. This was it! This would make all of them like me! I envisioned my return to the dugout would be like Ralphy in A Christmas Story when he blows kisses to his classmates. I was sure that come Monday, the jocks would make room for me at the lunch table and one of them would shove a microphone in my face and ask me what it felt like to now finally be a legit athlete. Maybe one of them would ask me if I had ever thought about doing commercials for my own line of shoes. But alas, there was already two outs and the kid that batted behind me grounded out. Game over. Season over. My baseball career came to an end.
Lovely story, right? It gets marginally better!
A couple weeks ago when I started executing all my tasks at work left-handed, it made me more mindful of my job, more engaged in the work and, believe it or not, it elevated my mood. Because I wasn’t just droning through the tedious work of being a right-handed janitor who graduated from a prestigious Jesuit university. I was doing things deliberately. I was paying attention. Which is essentially what Zen Buddhism is all about. As the brilliant neuroscientist Sam Harris said, it is always now. Simple words for a concept of great importance. After doing this for only a week, I decided I would put this new concept to a real test and I went to the batting cages.
I bought half an hour in the cage and I squared up on lefty side of the plate and I took 60-70 pitches left-handed.
I hit one foul tip.
Considering I haven’t picked up a bat for its intended purpose in 30 years, I’d say that’s a win. The bad news is, since I was curious to see if I got better results switch-hitting, I went to the other side of the plate and hit two base hits out of 20 pitches batting from the right-handed. That means that I’ve lost a little in those 30 years but hey, hitting .200 was good enough for Bob Ueker, so it was good enough for me.
If you don’t who Bob Euker is, where were you in the ’80s? You were probably one of those jocks I resented when I was home watching television.
Intellectually though, I wondered if there wasn’t a difference between using macro-muscle groups when hitting a baseball and the smaller muscle groups I used while housekeeping. I decided to try this non-dominant hand experiment with a man’s most fundamental need and desire.
The thing we desire more than almost anything else.
The thing that women refer to when they say “Men only think about one thing.”
The thing we driven to satisfy almost every day.