So you know how I talk on the radio and joke that I'm a "superior athlete." I'm only half joking with that. The other half of me believes that because I played three sports in high school and two sports in college that I carry the legacy of what Caitlyn Jenner used to be. Which is a really good athlete. You rest your ego on the belief that when all else fails, you can still throw a ball really well, run, swing a golf club, shoot a jump shot.
Illusions shattered tonight when I threw out the first pitch at the NWI Oilmen game in Whiting....
To start off the evening, we stopped at Center Lounge along 119th St. and of course Karen Oakes Holmes, a huge supporter of the station for years, bought us a bunch of drinks. That's Debbie and Roger and Kyle Wargo, and Wayne Micka and Lisa Belinski, Jeanie and Alexis and me, Carrie Diombala, and others. It's a heavy fuel crew so by the time I walked in the dugout and Poprovac handed me a specially-made jersey with "Dedelow" on the back.. I was a couple sheets into it.
Now it doesn't really matter to me that a bunch of listeners watched me throw the ball into the right-handed batters box.. and that the catcher had to make a rather adroit pickup of my errant pitch. Or that Haven House board members or my dad and Kalli or my sister Jenny and brother-in-law Mark saw it. Or my brother Brian and sister-in-law Michelle and Tracy Hirsch saw it. Or even that Jorday Beasley, the Hammond High kid who's been with me for years, or Micka, who's interned with me for years, or even that Alexis and daughter Jeanie watched it.
There were a lot of people there, in other words. A great night for a baseball game in the Midwest... with a slight caveat. This game took place at Oil City stadium in Whiting, Indiana, and if you sit in the stands behind home plate you can look straight into one of the largest oil refineries in the world over the right-centerfield fence. Also in attendance were a couple of youth teams that I got tickets for.
Please don't hold this against me... but I really didn't care that any of the above got a glimpse of my declining talents. Alexis knows it all too well. What used to be 15 minutes is more like five now and that's just how it goes.
But as I took the ball from the umpire - Todd Elias, it turns out, whom I've known for like 30 years - and walked to the mound, I realized something - hey, I'm kinda drunk. So I got to the mound and there was the Oilmen pitcher waiting to warm up, and I noticed that since he hadn't warmed up at all yet, there was no hole in front of the mound to push off from. And then I noticed that the mound was about three feet higher than I would have guessed. And then I noticed that there were hundreds of people waiting for the "superior athlete" to throw a perfect strike down the middle, to complete the facade of college baseball player turned local radio celebrity.
Wind up, pitch, in the dirt... and then silence. I thought maybe some people would laugh. No, just silence. And then it occurred to me that I had shattered something. My two nephews - Jack and Alan - were in attendance and were no doubt telling their buddies who had come - hey, that's my uncle Jim. Watch him throw a perfect strike.
And that's my story of throwing out the first pitch at Oilmen stadium tonight. We may have raised a few dollars for victims of domestic abuse, but I threw a 65-mile-an-hour fastball into the batters box and nobody laughed. I sobered up some by the third inning and they threw me on to do some color commentary during and excruciatingly long seven-run inning... but the whole time I was talking I was thinking - did Jack and Alan see that? I hope not.