Today’s game of catch is sponsored by Icy Hot, because I am now at the age where I can hurt myself in my sleep. I woke up with an incredibly stiff back and shoulder and applied the menthol solution almost immediately in hopes of loosening up before I connected with Brad.
Brad played baseball professionally in the Baltimore Orioles organization, so names like Cal and Billy Ripken, Storm Davis, and Eddie Murray are real people to him, not just cool trading cards. Brad also competes in the Men’s Senior Baseball League with his brother and has represented the Springfield area for the last 20 years in tournaments. Now in his first season with the Springfield Cardinals, I hoped Brad could give me some advice for arm-shoulder-back maintenance and playing the game for the long haul.
We stepped into the Cardinals bullpen at Hammons Field, snow still gathered in the shaded areas, and waved to Brock and Derek, friends from my very-few-days as part of the Field Crew. Already, they have the outfield grass looking fantastic. I volunteered to test it and shag fly balls any time they needed.
Brad told me stories of playing on the same team with his dad and brother and having his kids serve as bat boy and bat girl.
“Three generations wearing the same uniform. That’s a picture that I treasure.”
Brad’s favorite baseball movie? “The Natural — an older player still on the field.” I haven’t watched The Natural for years; I hope it’s on Netflix.
After we tossed the ball, we sat on a bullpen bench and I loved listening to Brad share what baseball has taught him about life. “Baseball gave me an education, exposing me to different cultures, opening my eyes to see things from other’s perspective. Through the game, I’ve learned about leadership and how to be a better person in the community, how to give back and live fully. It’s almost cliché, I know, but when you get to be part of a team and everyone genuinely wants others to do well and you like the people you’re with, amazing things can happen. I don’t have any plans to stop playing any time soon.”
Brad’s advice to me was simple and straightforward, “Use your whole body. You’ve got good feet, they’ll help save your arm.”
The hardest part of playing catch, the hardest part of living life, is when you’re just going through the motions (right, Matthew West?). Catch, like life, is a whole-body experience best shared with friends, new and old, and across generations.
Icy Hot helps, too.
(Here’s a link to yesterday’s Ozarks Live story.)