Yesterday we had a day off from work and so I decided to take an extended stroll to the park. I packed a picnic: bread/cheese/meat, rice, two Smirnoff ices, my book, baseball bat, umbrella, ipod. I spent the afternoon/evening in the parc reading, listening to music, eating, and swinging my bat.
As I was on my way home, I passed two teenage boys riding their bikes around a fountain in a smaller park closer to town. I had my ipod on full blast, listening to my music and sort of being in my own little world. Small caviot: I always feel torn when I am walking through the streets whether I should listen to my ipod or not. Walking with or without ipod creates two very different experiences. When you are listening to your ipod and walking it is like you are in your own music video; everything you are listening to begins to connect and blend with what you are seeing and passing by. It is very cool. Or sometimes you totally disconnect with your surroundings and lose yourself in the music. The downside to this is you close off possibility of any sort of interaction with people (and
you make yourself a moving, deaf target as you cross streets and bike paths).
So when I passed these two boys I was on my ipod; I noticed that they were fascinated with the bat I was carrying and were exchanging opinions about what they thought the object was. It was this moment where I could have gotten off my ipod and said to them ‘it’s a bat—is that what you guys are wondering?’ but that seemed to me a bit awkward so I continued on, giving them nothing more than a quick nod. To complicate the situation, I was wearing sunglasses (and it wasn’t even sunny) so this added to the persona I was creating. Two teenagers wouldn’t dare approach a big guy with shades, listening to an ipod, and carrying a wooden baseball bat.
Several minutes later, as I was reentering the city, the two boys rode up next to me and motioned to me that they had a question. I stopped and turned my ipod off. The boy asked me if I had a baseball with me because he had never seen a real baseball before. The boy was extremely curious. I told him I
didn’t have a ball. The convo continued….he asked me where the baseball stadium in Angers was and I said that I didn’t think there was one, that I play for a team in Rouen, which is pretty far away. I mentioned the names of a few cities with teams that I thought were nearby, but none of the cities seemed to ring a bell for him. I then pulled out a piece of scrap paper and wrote down the French Baseball website address, and gave it to him. I wished him luck and told him ‘baseball is a cool sport.’ What a dumbo thing to say—‘baseball is a cool sport.’ I have this moment, with a french teenager dying to play baseball, where I have the power to influence him in some empowering way, and all I can think of is ‘baseball is a cool sport.’ Oh well. As he biked off, I thought to myself ‘I sure hope you do find baseball in Angers, kid.’
Several hours later I went out for a drink with Keity and Christina, two of the other dancers in our company. I brought with me one of the two baseballs that I have
with me, on the off chance that I would again see the boy and could give him the ball. After the two boys left it had occurred to me that I had two baseballs and that it would have been great to give him one.
We had a drink at one bar and headed to the next.
At this second bar, a much more hip yet laid back yet bourgeois yet cheap bar, we took our seats out on the terrace and ordered our drinks. A few moments later the two young boys I had met several hours earlier passed our table and headed inside. I can’t believe it ! I thought. What are the odds.....
I took the ball inside, and tapped the boy on the shoulder (the boy, by the way, was being poured a beer into a plastic cup by the bartender. I guessed that the boy was only about 15, but maybe he was a bit older). The boy turned around, surprised to see me standing there. I again asked his name because I am terrible with names and had forgotten his (and I still can’t remember it). Then I told him ‘this is for you’ and handed him the ball. A look of even more surprise came over his face, as he took the ball and thanked me. I said goodbye and walked back to my table. A bit later the boy came out, ball and pen in hand, and asked for my autograph. ☺ I was so flattered that I can’t even express to you how flattered I was. I happily signed the ball (with my name and #12, my favorite jersey number) and gave him a wink. Somehow a wink seemed appropriate. He walked away with his friend and he both staring at the ball with my signature.
And it was just like that, in the blink of an eye, that I gave my first autograph in France and, subsequently, became a French Baseball Superstar (at least to one kid in this small town south of Paris).
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