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Hermey's Choice
2005-08-04 22:59
by Ken Arneson

There are many reasons why people blog. Mine are twofold:

  1. Because I enjoy the creative process.
  2. Because I want to remember. I want to remember the things I learn, the things I find interesting, and the way I felt about those things at the time.

When I have trouble blogging about the A's, it's usually because I didn't see anything that I felt was worth remembering. The last two games against the Twins were like that.

The only thing to note is that Dan Johnson came back home to Minnesota as a major leaguer for the first time, playing in front of large numbers of friends and family, and had a very good series, including an upper deck home run on Thursday. That was nice to see. Good for him.

But otherwise, these were two well-played games by both teams, close until the end. Each team came out with a victory: a fair result, all things considered, but unremarkable. Later, these two games will probably just blend away into the fabric of the season, and disappear.

* * *

But I think I'll remember this day, for personal reasons. It was my half-birthday. Six months left to the big 4-0. My wife's ten-year-old nephew (I'll call him Hermey for reasons that will soon become clear) came over for the day to play with my two daughters (8 and 5).

Hermey's pretty much an average kid except for one thing: he's been obsessed with baseball since he was about four years old. The game comes incredibly naturally to him; his left-handed pitching motion is about as smooth as any I've seen at any level of play. Last year, he struck out 40 batters in 19 innings pitched. A couple weeks ago, he threw a no-hitter in an all-star tournament.

He studies the motions of every left-handed pitcher he sees, until he can imitate that pitcher with uncanny precision. I worry that he might ruin his great natural delivery some day by copying some major leaguer with worse mechanics than his.

I played some catch with Hermey, and the first thing he did was show me his latest imitation. "Look, this is how Joe Kennedy pitches," he said. Sure enough, suddenly I'm playing catch with Joe Kennedy's shorter twin, complete with Kennedy's straight-kneed, stiff front leg that makes it look as if he's gonna jam his thigh bone up into his hip. Enough of that, I think, let's imitate some better mechanics. "Show me Barry Zito," I say.

* * *

After lunch, we took my oldest daughter to her first ever visit to the orthodontist. So many memories I had buried long ago suddenly resurfaced: the scratchy feeling of gauze in my mouth after having teeth pulled, the icky smell of the wet plastic of my retainer, the strange feeling of pressure on my teeth while having my braces tightened, and the even stranger lack of pressure when those braces finally came off.

Obviously, my memories of orthodontics aren't too pleasant. My daughter probably sensed that from me. She looked a little nervous going in. But it ended up not being a problem at all, because we had Hermey with us.

Hermey in that dentist's office was like the proverbial kid in a candy store. He was excited by everything: the waiting room, the toothbrushes, the chairs, the mirrors, the computers, you name it. He loved it all. Finally, he just burst out: "Oh man, this is all so cool! When I grow up, I am definitely either going to be a ballplayer or a dentist!"

Now who can be nervous in the presence of such enthusiasm?

* * *

Most of us are lucky if we find one thing we are passionate about in life. Hermey has two. At some point in his life, he'll have to choose between them, to decide which passion is greater. I can see it now: Eight years hence, Hermey is drafted in the first round of the draft:

GM: Why won't you accept our offer?

Hermey: I just don't want to play professional baseball.

GM: Oh well if that's all-- What? You don't want to play professional baseball?

Hermey: No.

GM: Hermey doesn't want to play professional baseball!

Scouts: Hermey doesn't want to play professional baseball! All that talent going to waste! Shame on you!

GM: Would you mind telling me what you do wanna do?

Hermey: Well, I'd like to be a dentist.

I think Hermey could genuinely walk away from that contract negotiation and still be happy elf human being. That's what I call leverage.

2005-08-07 08:55:19
1.   Cliff Corcoran
There was another left-handed ballplayer-dentist you may have heard of: Casey Stengel. The thing is, Casey was a much better ballplayer than he was a dentist. You can read about it in Steve Goldman's Forging Genius. And please, please don't ever let Hermey imitate Joe Kennedy again.
2005-08-07 10:21:37
2.   photogirl
Oh my God, you are not almost 40? Do you still get carded? Ha ha... :-)

Kerry Haas

2005-08-07 11:38:21
3.   Ken Arneson
It is better to look young than to feel young, if you know what I mean, dahling...

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