I played catch yesterday with a former minor league pitcher named Leon Feingold. It was fun and scary. First of all, he’s 6-foot-5-and-a-half. Secondly, he can still hit about 90mph on the radar gun. Third, we were throwing in a small gym that was barely longer than the distance from the mound to the plate. Fourth, the white cinder-block background made it tough to see the ball coming out of his hand. Fifth, he was throwing an assortment of pitches with nasty movement (tailing fastballs, splitters, knuckleballs, change-ups, and curves). One of his fastballs broke the webbing of my glove. Luckily, my face wasn’t behind it at the time. So yeah, fun and scary. It makes me wonder…if a guy who struggled with a shoulder injury in the lowest levels of the minors 13 years ago is still this good while goofing around in a cramped gym in the middle of the winter, what would it have been like to stand in the batters box against Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson in their primes? Now THAT is scary.
When I first showed up at the gym, Leon (who still pitches professionally in the Israel Baseball League) was finishing a pitching lesson with a kid who looked to be about 10 years old. Before the kid left with his mom, Leon introduced me as a “famous baseball expert,” which was kind of embarrassing. Peter Gammons is a famous baseball expert. I’m not. What did I do next? Duh. I grabbed my wallet and flipped it open to the bathtub photo, and as soon as the kid saw it, his eyes lit up. “Hey!” he shouted. “I’ve seen you on TV! You get all the balls at Shea Stadium and you switch hats and speak different languages!”
If I were genuinely famous, the kid would’ve recognized me without the wallet–and he would’ve known my name. But I’ll take it. I’m still young, and anyway, fame isn’t my ultimate goal anymore. Don’t ask me what is. I’m still trying to figure it out.