I was thinking today about the state of America and how divided we are in so many ways and how times are destitute for so many. My mind drifted to baseball and sunny days and I began to think of so many of the people I have met in ballparks over the years.
This particular memory came to me and I thought I would share it with anyone who might be reading this.
The Colorado Rockies play their spring ball in a little old ball field called Hi-Corbett in Tucson, AZ. It’s origins date back to 1937 and you can tell. Some people really hate it. I really love it. If you are in Colorado Springs go to see the AAA SkySox and this field will remind you of the one in Tucson. It feels like a small ball park and you can hear and see everything. Some people get frustrated at the lack of shade or cup holders, but I just scoff and say put the drink on the ground and bring sunblock, lots of it. The picture above is of Hi-Corbett. The picture pretty much says it all, except for one thing. The picture I took does not show the gentleman to my left. So I am left to tell his story.
I wish I could tell you this gentleman’s name, but I am often terrible with names and I should have written it down. Since I don’t remember his name I’ll call him barrel man (I’ll explain in a minute).
You know the type in the ballpark who are just naturally boisterous? The type who are not rude or stupid but you can just tell they have a personality larger than life sometimes. Barrel man was this guy.
He looked a lot like Jerry Garcia. His skin was weathered and his beard showed his experience. He had on his sun hat and laid back tropical shirt. This guy was a perfect fit for the Arizona tourism board. About four innings into the game my father gets up and heads to get some shade. With a lull in the action I look over to my left and see barrel man’s arms look like he tried to hug a porcupine really tight or he got into a fight with a cactus. Scrapes, scratches, you name it he had it. So of course being the journalist I asked…”You get into a fight with a cactus or somethin?’
Barrel man just laughed and started with what would end up being a good three inning long conversation that I still remember to this day. Indeed he had been “wrestling” cacti. He explained this was not for pleasure as much as it was to brighten the decor outside of his trailer. I asked naively, “this is the desert did you really need to move cacti around on your land?” Perplexed I was.
He explained, he asked his neighbor if he could move some cacti over into his land and
spruce the place up a bit if you will. Spruce up the desert I inquired? How does one do this? Isn’t it painful or even dangerous? I had no idea I had never attempted more than a touch of a cactus when I would say “ow no way!” All my questions were answered with great precision and kindness.
So on and on he went telling me how the many varieties of cactus there were and what the shapes and obstacles were. He told me how a barrel cactus (hence the name barrel man) was like picking up a keg and it’s that heavy too because of all the water inside. Heavy? Prickly? No thanks. The desert, just give me some pretty rock to put down.
It was his explanation about his trailer which struck me the most. Barrel man explained he was not a full time resident of Tucson but owned the trailer and land and would come down in the spring when Tucson was cooler and he could watch baseball. He loved baseball. He lived outside the San Fernando Valley and would return there in the summer where it was usually cooler and he could be near his wine country.
Wow, I thought. What a great life. He was a life long Giants fan and disliked Barry. I was really warming up to this guy. I asked him what he did with his trailer and land when he wasn’t in town and that’s really when I was glad I had gotten to meet this gentleman.
Barrel man explained he would often lend it out to whoever needed it, friends,family, etc. I said that was really cool of him and I really respect that because I try to do the same or have the same type of mentality in my life giving to those in need.
I sat and listened, as best I can remember, he explained there was a gal at a favorite restaraunt of his who was part of the staff. She had lost her entire home in a fire and wasn’t sure what she would do. He said he knew with out a doubt she had to use his trailer.
She knew barrel man but was not a close friend, more of a stranger who she saw through her job so she was hesitant to take the very kind gesture. He told me how he would not take no as an answer and that she was welcome to stay there until she had gotten back on her feet. He laughed and explained that he had been very lucky in life and been succesful enough to offer to others and he convinced her to make the trailer her own. He also explained he had grown up during the ’60s and although people had a lot bad stereotypes of hippies that there were a lot of great ideas and beliefs that grew out of it and he was not going to let those go.
I asked him how he finally convinced her to use his trailer because it sounded like she had hesitations from taking this gift from a strange man. He looked right at me and said as she was in the trailer and thanking me and really trying to make it known how grateful she was I just walked over to the table and put a picture on it. She picked up the picture and asked what it was and I explained to her that it was the last thing I had left from when I lost my place to a fire and someone did the same thing for me I’m doing for you.
It was a great day for baseball and I couldn’t tell you who won or lost because I came away from that game with a lot more than a scorecard…