Chapter 12 Punching Down the Romantic Style Influence on Me

I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.

Oliver Goldsmith

My first career aspiration was to be the first baseman for the New York Mets. It was a path that I pursued enthusiastically through high school with modest success. Like thousands of other kids, I was a pretty good baseball player. Unfortunately, after my senior year of high school, it became clear I suffered from a debilitating condition – insufficient talent. This condition was compounded by some important physical limitations. First, I was 5′11″, weighed 175 pounds, and had hit exactly four home runs after the age of 15. Generally, teams view the first baseman as a power hitter, so my ability to ground out to the second baseman was not coveted. Perhaps a move to shortstop or second base might have better matched my hitting skills; but I am also left-handed.

In baseball, left-handers are generally relegated to the outfield, first base, or pitching. Outfielders usually fall into two categories: power hitters or speedsters. We have established my power. As a baserunner, I was told I had “good instincts.” “Good instincts” on the bases is code for “runs like he is carrying a piano.”

“Pitcher!” was the enthusiastic solution offered by one of my coaches before he discovered that I was not “warming up”; that was my fastball. When that ever-optimistic coach asked me what other pitches I threw, I told him that I ...

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