Some dreams don’t want to die. A week ago I turned 45 years old. My birthday ushers in the baseball season, and each year, I watch spring training with the thought that there is still a chance that someday, I’ll play in the big leagues.Granted, I am far from peak condition, but even the thought of what middle age has done to my body doesn’t kill off the dream.
There have been at least 35 players in MLB history that have played at age 45 or older. Satchel Paige played at age 59 in 1965. More recently, Jamie Moyer (another Jamie!) pitched at age 49 back in 2012. Nolan Ryan was 46 when he pitched in 1993, and Randy Johnson was 46 when he pitched in 2009. Roger Clemens was 45 when he pitched in 2007. He might have had some help. Tim Wakefield was 45 in 2011. He’s a knuckleballer, but I’ll take what I can get. No one can dispute that Pete Rose was a hard playing big-leaguer, and he was just my age–45–in 1986.
Many people find baseball boring, but for me, the magic of watching a baseball game is the way that it makes you believe that you could be out there on the field doing what those players are doing. Football and basketball don’t have that quality. I’m not seven foot four, or two hundred and ninety pounds. Sure, there are the Muggsy Bogues of the NBA and NFL, but in baseball, that matters a lot less.
It doesn’t help matters that the Little Man’s Little League season has started, and working with the team at practices, and watching them in games adds to my belief that I can do it, that I can be a major league player. Baseball is a games of smarts. An old pitcher like Jamie Moyer survives in the big leagues not because of a blazing fastball but because of good control and a Ph.D. level knowledge of the game. He can out-think the younger hitters. I feel like I have some of that wisdom. It’s what baseball people call “intangibles.”
Do I really think I still have a chance of making it in the Show? There are two answers to that question. I prefer the answer that still allows me to believe it is possible, even if I know, intellectually, that it will never happen. Instead, I find ways to make it happens. I have written, sold, and published two baseball fiction pieces. Whatever readers read into these pieces, they were my attempt to keep the dream alive.
At some point, I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that I will never play baseball in the major leagues. Maybe when I turn fifty? What is far more disconcerting is the thought that someday, I’ll have to give up the thought of tossing a ball with children or grandchildren, of taking grounders, or of shagging flies. At some point, there will be a last grounder hoovered, a last fly ball snowconed in my mitt. They will be fleeting things, unnoticed until months or years later when the beginning of the baseball season rolls around, and I suddenly realize that I can no longer recall the last time I held a baseball in my hand, and no longer have the will or desire to hold one again.
That’s why I continued to believe, despite all the odds, that it is still possible for me to play baseball in the big leagues. All I’d need to do, if I really wanted to do it, is add it to my to-do list.
Of course, this is one task that will never find its way onto my to-do list. That’s as it should be.