AT SPRING TRAINING, STILL DREAMING
JUPITER, FLORIDA: I am at this very sunlit moment sitting in one of my favorite places on Earth, Roger Dean Stadium, winter home of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. It is 83 degrees, and there is not a cloud in the sky. If Heaven is better than this, it must really be something.
I am on the second row of Section 106, along the first baseline, just above the Cardinals dug out. I can almost reach out and touch my heroes. Between innings I stand and scream and beg that one of them will throw me a baseball as they return to the bench.
I also keep hoping that a foul ball will sail toward my seat, giving me the chance to catch it with one hand even if it means I have to drop my bratwurst hot dog, which by the way, tastes absolutely wonderful. (If I am ever on Death Row, and they come to me and ask me what I want for my last dinner, I will without hesitation reply, "I would like a bratwurst from Roger Dean Stadium, please!")
I also dream that my one-hand stab of an errant line-drive foul ball will somehow be noticed by Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who will say, "Who is that guy?! He looks like a gold glover! We need to sign him up!"
You see, at the age of 64, I am still reporting to Spring training, still pursuing a dream I have had for nearly 60 years.
When I was a boy growing up in an era when baseball was truly the National pastime, I did not dream of someday carrying a briefcase. I wanted to carry a bat or a glove. I wanted to be Stan the Man Musial, not Perry the Lawyer Mason.
Actually, I wanted to follow in the cleat-steps of my hometown hero, Tim McCarver.
For several years, I did play for the Cardinals. Not the St. Louis Cardinals, but rather the Dellwood Baptist Church Cardinals of the North Memphis Little League. I did not play in the million dollar infield of Busch Stadium. I played on a sandlot of dreams in my neighborhood.
But I had just two problems in pursuing my dream of being a St. Louis Cardinal. First, I couldn't field. Second, I couldn't hit.
I could never hit a curve ball. I also could not hit a fastball, a change up, or for that matter, a slow pitch softball.
By the time I started high school, I was too big for Little League and too small for American Legion ball. And I still couldn't field or hit. So I joined my high school debate team, competing in a "sport" in which I could actually field words and hit them as well.
Thanks to my new sport, debate, I grew up to be a lawyer. But the diamond dream never died.
Once again this Spring I have journeyed to South Florida to join my teammates. I am wearing a Cardinals cap (a special green one for St. Patrick's Day) and a red shirt, and I am ready to head for either the batters box or the infield, although I will need to borrow a bat and glove.
And at this glorious moment as I sit in the Florida sun behind the dugout waiting to catch a foul ball, I am still that little boy dreaming of being a Cardinal.