Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Tryout

I tried out for the Fresno Giants, a single A professional ballclub with affiliation with the San Francisco Giants on a dare during my day off at Summer Camp when I was 22.  My wife, seven months pregnant found the phone number and called the office to arrange a tryout, not believing anything would come of it.  The manager of the club picked up and said, "sure come on over before the game tonight and I will give your husband a tryout!  We are always looking for new talent."  She put down the phone and exclaimed, "I can't believe it! The manager is expecting us before the game tonight!"

My wife and I got into the car and made our way from camp in the mountains to the Fresno Giants stadium about an hour away.  The thought dawned on me that I did not have any cleats for the tryout! Was I going to tryout for a professional ball club in Converse All-Star sneakers?!  We stopped at a Big 5 Sporting Goods store along the way and bought a pair professional baseball cleats to show my earnest in this propitious endeavor.

I was welcomed by the manager and told immediately to warm up with one of the pitchers who also came early.  The manager asked me some pertinent questions like "where did you play ball?" and I honestly answered "I hadn't played since high school" that evoked a surprised response. The manager's silence seemed to express "Why am I wasting my time on this guy?" He actually spoke and kindly repeated what he said on the phone "Well, we are always looking for new talent; let's see what you've got!'

Now, I knew immediately that perhaps I was out of my league because the difference of my throws in warm-ups compared to the fellow I was playing catch with were feeble. With each throw, I wound up with much strength and the ball popped lightly into his glove.  His simple flick of his wrist, however, pounded a loud smash into my glove that recoiled my arm backwards! I am thinking "not much to see here in warm-ups"

The manager asked me what position do I want to play and I honestly answered that I used to play Center Field, however, since my arm is really not as strong as it used to be I prefer to play Left field.
He said ok and asked me to take the position.  I hustled out to medium depth and he immediately cracked a fly ball over my head that bounced against the wall.  I tore off for the ricochet and cleanly fielded it and with a traditional hop-skip-and throw made a perfect throw to second base, a straight line cast, however, it died and bounced twice to the fellow fielding second.  The next hit was a liner to my left and then to my right; I caught both on the run and repeated perfect throws on a line to second base but they bounced twice to the bag.  The manager directed me to throw to third on the next fly ball that was hit down the line where I made a running catch and threw hard to third base, this one too was a perfect throw but bounced also to the bag twice!  At this point the manager saw as much as he needed to because he stopped the outfield play  (my thought was that he was cancelling the try-out,) however, he said, "now, go grab a bat and let's see how you hit!"

I could not find a bat that was light enough for me.  I was given a basic caveman's club! It was a small handled huge barrel 36in Louisville Slugger.  In high school I used a thick handled 34 in Jackie Robinson signature Louisville Slugger.  The bat was too big for me, however I choked up on it and took my place at the plate.  The manager asked the fellow that warmed me up to take the outfield in Right since I was left handed. Pat was his name who went out to shag my hits; he was completely uninterested and was not ready for what happened next.

The manager delivered the pitches and each one I hit solidly.  I sprayed the ball all over the right side from Center field to Right field making Pat run silly back and forth retrieving my hits.  At this point a few more Fresno Giants started onto the field and just stood watching me line the ball to Right field. I over heard one fellow mention to another, "Sheet Joe, that little guy hits far!"  I had just cracked one over Pat's head to the warning track in the power alley.  Although I had the wrong bat, I knew that I wasn't embarrassing myself.

Eventually, the manager stopped the tryout and I hustled to the pitcher's mound where he was standing and I asked humbly," What did you think?"  He replied quite frankly that I open my hips on my swing too early but that I had a pretty good eye.  He continued to explain that if I was really interested in playing professional baseball then I would have to report to the AA club at Shreveport, LA next spring because I really was too old for the Fresno club which was A league.  He recommended that I would need to strengthen my arm in the off season to continue a baseball career, but he wished me good luck in a very positive manner and thanked me for coming out!  He was very gracious to me and my wife by giving us free passes to that night's ball game.  I still have the stubbs (and the cleats).

No comments:

Post a Comment