There was a time when I'd find a couple quarters laying in the street, and I'd get on my bike and ride to the local Dairy Mart, walk up to the counter and ask for a wax pack of Topps. I'd slide my quarters across the counter, eager with anticipation, hoping that when I pulled open the glue on the back of the pack, that I'd find a hero inside.
The first thing I'd do was place that gum in my mouth. There was nothing in those days like a pink stick of gum that you could break. The initial reaction of that gum on my tastebuds was revulsion, but I continued chewing anyway, until I got it to a point where it was soft and gooey...the way gum should be. Ah, that gum...completely vile and utterly addictive at the same time.
I'd hurry through the cards, hoping for an Eric Davis, Jose Canseco, or a (yes) Jesse Barfield. I'd always cringe whenever I'd get a Pascual Perez. Something about him always scared me. I'd slide the cards into my pocket and get back on my bike and ride home.
While watching the games on TV with my dad, I'd set up my cards the same as that day's lineup, and dream about one day being on that diamond myself.
I'd study the stances and pitching deliveries pictured on the cards, so that when I got together with my friends to play ball at the park, I could imitate those heroes of mine.
I always ran all out, all the time in those days, because that's how my dad taught me. The Pete Rose way, he called it. Do everything like Pete, and you'll never be sorry.
I'd be upset when the Reds lost, but I'd always look forward to tomorrow, knowing that they'd get the Astros or Dodgers the next time. I didn't care about stats. Strikeouts didn't bother me. When I went to the ballpark to see a game, I just wanted to have the opportunity to see those men, the legends from my baseball cards, in person doing what I hoped to someday do myself.
Play a game just for the love of it.
Still, even as a 10 year old, I sat in the outfield at Riverfront and heckled a Pirates outfielder named Barry Bonds.
But sometimes...sometimes I wish I could be that 10 year old again.