As many of you already know, I've spent most of my life involved in sports one way or another. Especially baseball.
I've written about baseball, of course. Thousands of times.
And there isn't much I haven't done on a baseball diamond, from playing, to coaching, to managing, to umpiring, to groundskeeping, to running the refreshment stand, to keeping the scoreboard up to date, to helping organize baseball tournaments and all-star games.
I also repaired fences. I fixed broken bats (wooden) and re-strung gloves. I sewed torn or damaged uniforms. I even hand-stitched baseballs when I was a kid, because new baseballs were hard to come by in those days.
And I helped build dugouts from the ground up. I almost forgot
But there are lots of men living in York County who can say the same thing, such is their love for the game of baseball.
There is, however, one thing I never did -- not once, that I can recall.
I was never asked to be a batboy.
Until last week, when Randy Flaum, the York Dispatch assistant managing editor for visuals -- he heads up the photography and visual arts department, in other words -- asked me if I'd like to try being a batboy.
I must have had a dumbfounded look on my face -- which would be pretty much normal, I guess -- because Flaum quickly followed up with: "The Revs are looking for someone to be batboy for tomorrow's game."
Flaum had just returned from Sovereign Bank Stadium and had heard from a York Dispatch sportswriter about the batboy dilemma. Normally, the Revs have plenty of batboys lined up, but last Thursday's game was scheduled for an 11 a.m. start and most kids of batboy age would be attending school.
So the Revs scratched around until they reached the bottom of their batboy barrel and I apparently was the only one left.
Why not? I figured. It'll be a new experience.
Indeed it was.
I wore my own hat because I have a huge head -- size 8 -- and I knew the Revs would not have a hat big enough to fit me. And they didn't.
I wore an old pair of baseball cleats, and the Revs provided a uniform.
And then they told me what I'd have to do. I figured I was the home team batboy, period. But no. It turns out they didn't have a visiting team batboy, either. So I'd have to run back and forth every half inning to be the batboy for the visiting team, too.
In my mind, a batboy's primary duty is to retrieve bats after each hitter completes an at-bat and take them back to the dugout.
But there was more. I'd also have to chase foul balls behind home plate. I'd have to provide fresh baseballs to the home plate umpire whenever he needed some. And when the home plate ump got thirsty, I'd have to chase down a cup of cold water for him. That happened a few times as the game went along.
This is the perfect time to remind everyone I'm almost 64 years of age, not 14, not 12, not 9. I tell you that only so you'll realize that my energy resources are not what they used to be, say 50 years ago or 30 years ago or even 10 years ago. And as I quickly learned, being batboy is not an old man's game.
Camden scored four runs in the first inning. By the time the first half inning was over, I was panting like a dog.
Still, I figured I had enough energy to make it through one nine-inning baseball game. A normal game. A pitchers' duel. A 2-1 game, with each team having six hits. A game completed in less than 31/2 hours.
But no. In my game, 25 runs were scored. There were 30 combined hits, 12 walks, four hit batters and 10 pitching changes. All of that takes time.
And a lot of walks from the dugout to the batter's box and back.
I did the math. Figure 45 feet from dugout to batter's box. That's 90 feet out and back, plus the equivalent of one toe-touch each time I bent down to pick up a bat.
I figure I made 110 round trips from dugout to batter's box during the game. So that's 110 times 90 feet, which means I jogged or speedwalked about 10,000 feet during the game.
There are 5,280 feet in a mile. Add it all together and I walked about two miles on a fairly warm day, with more than 100 toe-touches thrown in for good measure.
Yes, I felt like I was slowing down -- the mind was willing, but the body was weak and getting weaker -- from the sixth inning on, which probably explains why the home plate umpire occasionally would pick up the bat for me and meet me part way. He was feeling sorry for me, no doubt.
Either that, or he wanted to speed up the process a little bit.
This much I can tell you, I started to count outs in the seventh inning. Eighteen, then 17, then 16 and so forth. I can tell you the Revs' center fielder won no points with me in the top of the eighth inning, when there were two outs and Camden runners on first and second. A routine fly ball was hit to straightaway center field. A can of corn, I told myself.
Except that the center fielder -- Scott Grimes, I think -- circled under the ball a couple of times and failed to catch it. Both runners scored, the batter wound up on second and the inning continued when it should have been over.
Then, finally, the last out was made. My butt was dragging, but I had done my duty. Game over. But the Revs' pitching coach, Mark Mason, apparently didn't know how tired I was or maybe he thought I was the paid help, I don't know. Maybe he didn't recognize that I am older than he is. Or maybe he doesn't have any respect for his elders.
Anyway, Mason asked me to retrieve the pitching rosin bag from behind the mound and put it away in the dugout closet. Right away, I'm thinking I'd already done five times more work that day than Mason did. It occurred to me that he should have asked one of the pitchers to run out and get the rosin since his pitching staff gave up 19 hits and eight walks on the day.
"Sure thing," I said. But as I jogged -- it was a slow jog, barely a trot -- out to get the bag, I was thinking: "OK, God, if you're ever going to give me a heart attack, now's the time to do it. Right here on a baseball field. And then bury me under home plate."
Didn't happen. I survived the experience.
I don't know that I was the oldest batboy in the history of baseball -- I'm sure I wasn't. But on that one day, last Thursday between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., I might have been.
Something to tell the grandkids about, I guess.
And I'll bet they'll be impressed as all get out.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick email@example.com.