I wrote this a week ago and saved it as a draft, but with the fan mail and donut mayhem, I didn’t really have a decent time to post it. I figure I’m due for a non-scheduled post (meaning not a 1 minute Monday, wife Wednesday, or fan mail Friday) and with all the foreigners writing in this Friday, it was fitting to post this. I have another post coming about my promotion to Triple-A and the surrounding “glamor.” Hope you enjoy…
A few days ago Gilbert De La Vara and I were asked to sign autographs on the concourse an hour before our home game started. Every day, two players, typically bullpen pitchers who are unlikely to throw in that night’s game, head to the concourse for 30 minutes to sign for kids and adults alike. We sit in a booth that should say “The Dr. is IN” but instead says nothing.
A lot of guys don’t like going up to sign because it takes away from their typical routine and perhaps they have something better to do with their endless hours in the clubhouse than sign autographs in public. For me, I try to make it enjoyable by saying funny things to kids. And then seeing if they get my humor. Most of the time they don’t but I chalk it up to nerves on their part and keep my chin up. I’ve signed on three occasions so far this year and have enjoyed every one of them. This most recent I enjoyed the most, though.
Typically my fellow signer is a little less vocal and sticks to smiling and signing. I, on the other hand, try to ask kids where they’re from or how old they are or if their dad really thinks those shorts are flattering. I think it breaks the ice for everybody a little bit and makes fans feel comfortable asking the big famous baseball player for an autograph.
As the half hour ticked away, a highlight was having a lady come up to me with a huge smile and ask me to sign a picture of me throwing a pitch. As I started to put the pen to the paper she stopped me, “No, please sign those amazing calves.” She asked, with now an even bigger smile. A blog fan! In the flesh, right before my eyes! She proceeded to tell me she checks the blog every day. So, sorry I didn’t ask for your name, but a big hello to you and thanks for putting a smile on my face. It made my day.
And then, thankfully, I had the distinct privilege of having my day made for the second time by the guy a few feet behind the calf lady.
He was wearing a hat and sunglasses. He approached our station and asked me to sign a picture and a ball for him. I said, “Of course,” and started to make small talk. I asked him if he was a regular at our games, asked where he was from, and who his favorite big league team was. We talked about his son’s little league team and about our game the night before. Then, once we were done chatting and his paraphernalia were signed, he sidled a few feet to his left and stooped his head down a few inches to make eye contact with the eyes below Tucson-native Gilbert De La Vara’s brim.
In a slower, more deliberate manner, and nearly shouting, he asked Gilbert, “And what country are you from?” It was all I could do to hold the laughter in. I mean, it’s a reasonable question, there are plenty of Latin American baseball players, but Gilbert had been right next to us speaking in perfect English the entire time. In fact, Gilbert often gets made fun of when he tries to speak Spanish because it’s so broken. I was so grateful just to be a part of this awesome interaction. I also was excited to soon share with my teammates the conversation they were all missing. It would be a nice case to bring up in Kangaroo Court, too. The fan had asked it in the tone of voice you’d order Mongolian Beef and a Sprite: “What…COUN-try are YOU… from?” And then it got better. In every sense.
“Arizona,” Gilbert replied. Again, in perfect English.