By Al Greene
I will never pitch for the Chicago Cubs. Moreover, I will never pitch for the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.
It’s tough to realize you’re not going to be able to check off something on your bucket list.
But when my shoulder started to ache after lugging my file-stuffed briefcase around for three days, it was time to come to a realization. There aren’t too many pitchers north of 75 who have taken the mound at Wrigley Field for the northsiders.
Actually, there aren’t any pitchers north of 75 who have taken the mound anywhere.
Satchel Paige, I remember, pitched into his 50s or maybe 60s, if I recall correctly. But, hell, he was just a kid back then.
I harbored dreams of pitching in the majors for most of my life, starting when I was 10. My backup plan then was to be a jet pilot if the Cubs didn’t work out.
While neither of those plans came to fruition, I still nevertheless have no complaints about the hand I have been dealt.
I suppose my major accomplishment has been getting my sons graduated from college without any student loans. And, along the way, I’ve helped a few people out of some major jams.
But pitching for the Cubs – well, that was still a goal.
But first I had to overcome the ache in my shoulder, so I called Medicare to see if there would be any copays if I had Tommy John surgery. That is the surgery where doctors insert a rubber band into your arm so you can throw a baseball at 200 miles per hour.
When the lady on the phone stopped laughing, she said she would be glad to send me a rubber band she had in her upper desk drawer in an unmarked envelope. She said I could take it to one of those emergency-care places where they would insert it in about five minutes. I felt confident now that I had a plan that was taking firm shape.
But I still needed to find out how far I had to go. That was solved one recent day as I wandered through a carnival and came upon a booth that had a radar gun to measure how fast you could throw a baseball. You got three throws for $2, but things were tight so I settled on one throw for $1.
I didn’t even bother warming up. I just reared back and let fly.
I can tell you right now that there are no major league pitchers who throw a 35 mph fastball.
But that didn’t dissuade me because throwing at 35 mph would no doubt throw the timing of hitters so far off that I would be an overnight sensation.
My change-up, I figured, would come to the plate at 25 mph, while my slider, well, don’t even ask.
I had long imagined the radio announcers introducing my entrance.
“And now, pitching for the Chicago Cubs, the lanky right-hander from the University of Illinois, Al Greene.”
Now, the University of Illinois part is true. I spent four years in Champaign but never pitched for the Fighting Illini.
But the lanky part, well, that might not be so true. I’m not sure what lanky is, but when I looked at myself in the mirror the other day, I’m pretty sure my profile was as far from lanky as is possible.
Thus, it was then I realized the top dream on my bucket list would have to go unfulfilled.
But not being lanky enough didn’t mean I’d have to give up the next item on my list.
Which is why next year I’ll be writing you from the quarterback orientation training camp of the Chicago Bears.