As a kid growing up, my childhood dream was to play 2nd base for the Detroit Tigers. That dream never became a reality for me. I played summer league at Thomas Stadium in Niles, played on the J.V. team in High School and was the last one cut off of the Varsity team when I tried out as a Junior. Which was when the reality of my situation hit me. I just was not a good enough player! The glove was there, but the bat was not close to being good enough. Looking at my future, I had a choice to make my Senior year. Put more effort into a baseball future that really was not there or go to work as a co-op student so that I could try to pay for college since my parents were not in a financial situation to help. Nobody in my family had ever graduated from college and few had even attempted to go to college. So, I chose the latter of the two choices and even worked full-time between 2 jobs while going to college full time all while trying to build a solid relationship with the woman who would eventually become my wife. It was hard and I don't regret it one bit! I have been blessed with a great wife and a career in Real Estate that I genuinely enjoy and have met some great people along the way.
But, when the opportunity came up for me to step out onto a major league baseball field, I jumped at it. On Friday, July 30th, I had the awesome experience of taking batting practice at Comerica Park in Detroit. Home of my Detroit Tigers. It was a blast!! From taking warm up swings in the batting cages behind the visitors dugout to shagging fly balls and eventually stepping up to bat against former Detroit Tiger and 1984 World Champion, Dave Rozema, which was who was throwing BP.
There were over 60 people taking BP with me. Out of those 60+ people, only 1 was able to pop one over the fence. No, it was not me! But I was in Left Field when it was hit right over my head as I was heading back to the fence so I got a nice view of it sailing over the fence, over the gap between the stands and the field and then into the seats about 3 rows up.
I practiced leading up to Friday. Taking BP in the cages at Hackers up in Niles and worked my way up to the fast pitch machine. But I was not sure what to expect or how I would feel when stepping up to bat against a former Major League Pitcher in a profession ball park. I took the whole thing seriously. I had my Detroit Tiger batting practice jersey on, baseball pants, cleats, batting gloves and even the knee high blue socks. I made sure that I had an old school look about me with the socks and the way that I had the bottoms of my pants up high to show off those blue socks (not a big fan of the way the players wear the bottoms now a days).
When I stepped up to the plate, Rozema spoke out to me and said "At first glance, you sure have the look of a ball player! You have the uniform and the batting gloves, but I don't see a belt! Real ballplayers finish out their look!" It was funny, and said as a joke, but I did get his point. I laughed and had a hard time during that first pitch. He got in my head! Luckily, I re-grouped, focused and was able to get some good swings in. The best of those swings might have been a double in the gap in left center. The rest would have been line outs, ground outs or singles.
A couple of things became VERY clear from my experience.
Hitting a Home Run is a very hard thing to do! You truly have to hit the ball perfectly and with a lot of bad speed in order to hit that baseball 345 ft down the left field line or worse the 420 feet in left center. I really do not see how there could be such a thing as a cheap home run after having the experience of being out on that field.
The people that play baseball for living work really, really hard at what they do! To be in playing shape and to be able to hit a little white ball that is coming at you 95 mph takes skill and dedication. There is no way these players can just show up and play.
And, if you have an opportunity to take BP at a Major League Ball Park.....TAKE IT! It was worth what I paid and it is an opportunity to do something that you would not be able to do otherwise!