Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two out, full count. From the pitcher’s mound I stare in for the catcher’s signs. I give the clean-up batter a coldblooded glance. He waggles his bat above his head menacingly. The crowd is howling. I’m holding on to a one-run lead. The entire season is on the line. Everything comes down to this one pitch. I nod to my catcher and go into my wind-up. I let the pitch fly. Thwack!
“Nice throw,” Craig Brown, the president of the Greenville Drive minor league baseball team says, walking onto the field to shake my hand. “Congratulations. You got the ball to the plate!”
The big dude who caught me—an actual professional player on the Drive, a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox—hands me the ceremonial ball and we all get our pictures taken before the real game starts.
In fact the fans are still filing into the vintage-style ball park, Fluor Field, modelled on legendary Fenway Park in Boston (I reveal to no one that I am in fact a New York Yankee fan). But I had my thrill, throwing out the first pitch at a real baseball game. How could I resist resurrecting that archetypal fantasy all guys have had?
I just got back from Greenville, South Carolina, where I helped kick off our search for the most inspirational Drive fan. I’ll be back in lovely Greenville on August 25 to honor that special person. I have to tell you, I had a total blast. I can’t wait to get back to Greenville.
First, Greenville is nothing like the sleepy Southern town I imagined. It has one of the liveliest Main Streets I’ve seen anywhere—cool shops, a surprising array of ethnic restaurants as well as traditional Southern fare (I lived on BBQ), clubs with every variety of music from blues to country to jazz. And really good ice cream shops. I know. I tested them all.
Right before I threw out the first pitch I got to spend some time with local GUIDEPOSTS readers whom we picnicked with inside the stadium then watched the game with a few of them from the owner’s box. I love spending time with readers. They seem more like our partners and they’re not shy about telling us what they love about the magazine (everything) and how we can make it even better. After all, it is their magazine. It was kind of like a ballgame and focus group all rolled into one.
Drive won, 4-3, over a New York Mets minor league club. These kids are barely out of high school and they still play ball with an innocence and a love that I hope will last forever. But for a grizzled old veteran like me it’s just about getting the ball to the plate.
P.S. By the way, if you know of a particularly inspiring Greenville Drive fan, or you are one yourself, let us know and you could be honored at Fluor Field and by Guideposts on August 25. Send in your story to Greenvilledrive.com or submit them here on the site.
Oh….also, check out the Greenville slideshow below to see some of the GUIDEPOSTS fans, me throwing out that first pitch and you can meet Craig Brown and see the irrepressible JDew interview me. Have fun! I’ll see you in Greenville on August 25.
Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.