Old-timer. That’s who I saw standing on the pitching mound when I went up to bat in our northern Alabama independent baseball league. I would show this old guy a thing or two.
Minutes later I was back in the dugout. He’d struck me out! Four times that Sunday afternoon I went to bat. Four times I struck out. I sulked in the dugout after the game. How could I go 0 for 4 against an old pitcher who threw junk?
“How old are you, son?” It was the pitcher.
I mumbled, “Sixteen.”
“I was in the major leagues by about your age,” he said. “Injuries cut my career short.”
“You did okay today,” I said.
“Your mistakes made me look better than I really am.” He took me back to the plate and corrected my stance. “Don’t try to hit ’em all out of the park.” He gave me tips, not only on baseball. “Respect other players and their abilities,” he said. “A strong character will gain you more respect than cockiness.”
“Thank you, Mister,” I said half an hour later. “Thanks a whole lot.” He’d made me a new ballplayer. I could feel it.
When next we played his team I looked forward to showing him how I’d taken his advice to heart. But the old-timer wasn’t there. I asked one of his teammates where he was.
“Never seen him before that day,” he said. “Never seen him since.”