What do you want to do before you die?
That's the idea behind a bucket list, of course -- the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Probably like you, I've never created one before. Maybe that's because it's so daunting a task; mostly it's because I'm going to live forever. [puts fingers in ears] la la la la la I can't hear you I can't hear you I can't hear you.
But there's one other reason I haven't created one yet: embarrassment.
While a normal person's bucket list may look like this:
- Eat an entire block of cheese with Oprah
- Hike the Appalachian Trail backwards
- Master Owthathurts, the ancient Icelandic art of ice knitting
Mine would probably look like this:
- baseball thing
- basebally-baseball thing
- baaaaaaseball thiiing!!!
Yes, I know there's more to life than baseball. Much more. But when given a chance to do what I want to do, I'm picking all baseball things. Maybe you would too. And so here is the full list of baseball things I want to do before my life ends. Some are epic, some may be a little silly, but they're all personal. And, if you want to add a few of your own, feel free to do so in the comments.
1. Throw a pitch at Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.
A sadness I have about modern baseball comes from all the new ballparks. Some of them are fantastic, and most of them are improvements in many ways over those they replaced. But something was lost in that translation, and -- I know I'm sounding very get-off-my-lawn-ish right now* -- the older parks have a connection to tradition and to their cities that most of the newer ones will never have. For my kids they will, but for me, the history I grew up hearing about and the history I saw created happened in the older parks. But now there are really only two older parks: Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. After that, the oldest major league park is Dodger Stadium, and no offense to that venerable structure, but it's still five decades junior to the other two.
I want to get down on the field, on the mound, to stand up there and look down on the grass, and up at the seats. I want to have a ball and my glove and stand on the mound and go into my windup and throw a pitch. I don't care if anyone is there to see me, or if there is a catcher to catch it, or even if there are any lights on. I don't care if I see the pitch. I just want to know what it's like to throw it.
*But, and I mean this seriously, get off my lawn.
2. See a game in every state.
Baseball is played all over the world -- and in every American state. I've always wanted to see every state. The fun in this one would be finding a game to go to. Not every state has a major league baseball team; in fact, most don't. But there is a minor league park in every state, and if I couldn't find a minor league team to watch, I'd watch college. Heck, I'd watch Little League if that's all there was. Actually, this sounds like a project that not only should I pursue next summer, but that my editors should pay for! (Ed. note: No it doesn't)
Some places you might think it would be more difficult to find a game, but no. Take Alaska, where the Alaskan Baseball League plays from June through July. In Hawaii, the Hawaii Stars and Maui Warriors play in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, but the University of Hawaii also fields a team. Yes, they went 16-35, but it was baseball in Hawaii, so while those losses may have happened in a baseball sense, in actual life they were pretty clearly wins for all involved.
3. Visit the Field of Dreams.
I've always had a soft spot for the movie "Field of Dreams." Sure, it's mostly schmaltzy garbage, but it's my kind of schmaltzy garbage. It's a movie about a boy and his dad who bonded over baseball, so for me at least, it's pretty relatable stuff.
It would have been cool to see the recent exhibition game on the field in Dyersville, Iowa that featured Jim Palmer, Johnny Bench and Pete Rose. From the sound of it, though, there will be more games to see there. And on a baseball field in the middle of cornfield? Sign me the heck up!
4. Get into a fake fight with the Philly Phanatic.
My first job out of college was on the top floor of a high-rise office tower. The elevator rides down to lunch were excruciating as the elevator stopped at seemingly every floor to pick people up. My friend and I entertained ourselves by pretending to be in the middle of a compromising conversation when the elevator doors opened:
[door starts to open] "I just put the balm on and it should clear things up in a week to 10..."
[stops; looks quietly at floor]
Maybe that's why I found the Twins reliever who pretended to punch the other Twins reliever just as a television camera following a home run ball turned the spotlight on their bullpen to be so funny.
The Philly Phanatic is always up for a prank, and tricking 40,000 fans by getting into a fist fight with a mascot seems like a great way to spend an afternoon. I could pose as a stadium security guard and get angry at him for parking his ATV near one of the dugouts. After a bunch of shouting and finger pointing, hopefully as close to the warming up pitcher as possible, I'd slug him.
5. Face a major league pitcher.
Haven't you ever wanted to know what it feels like to stand in against a real 90 mph major league fastball? No? Well I can't blame you. 75 mph fastballs in high school were terrifying, to say nothing of curveballs. (There's a joke here about making a Stepping Into The Bucket list, but I'm not quite able to get the bat off my shoulder.) Yet, I'd love to try.
I'd love to see how, despite my best, most earnest attempts, the bat wouldn't leave my shoulder even when I'd determined that I was going to swing no matter the location of the pitch. 90 mph is that fast, but the more you see it, the better your chances of making contact. So, I'm going to guess that if I saw 10 straight fastballs I might be able to foul off the tenth. Or maybe not. But it sure would be fun to give it a shot.
6. Hug David Ortiz or at least sit under a mango tree with Pedro Martinez.
If you tried to hug Derek Jeter, it would be like slamming your face into the side of a refrigerator, but is there anyone more huggable in pro baseball than David Ortiz? Maybe you'd rather hug Jose Altuve, be held for an uncomfortably long time by Hunter Pence, or squeezed and slapped on the back too hard by Brett Lawrie, but for me, I'll take the deep, sincere, and almost nurturing in a bro-ish way Big Papi.
But, if Ortiz wasn't available, I'd fly down the to Dominican Republic to sit under a mango tree and talk life (i.e. baseball) with Pedro Martinez. It sounds like going to the top of a mountain to meet with an ancient monk, and in some ways that's exactly what it is, minus the mountain part. Pedro was a great pitcher because he was both preternaturally skilled and very intelligent. And if you've ever heard the man talk, well, let's say sitting under any kind of tree with Pedro would be an enlightening experience.
7. Attend a no-hitter.
I almost saw a no-hitter once. In fact, it was almost a perfect game. Philadelphia's Eric Milton took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs back in July of 2004. After getting the first 24 Cubs in order, he allowed a double to lead off the ninth. Four batters later, another double scored two runs, and that was Milton's night. He came into the ninth with a perfect game, a no-hitter, a shutout, a complete game and a win all there for the taking, but in the end he only got the win -- and just barely. That's probably why I haven't seen a no-hitter or a perfect game in person. That's probably why you haven't either. There have been so few perfect games it's not realistic in any way that I see one.
That game was Eric Milton's only shot at immortality, but it was also likely my only shot to witness the same. And still, like downtrodden fans everywhere, I have hope. No-hitters happen every season. There have been two this year, but there were six no-nos the year before, and three the year before that. No-hitters are more common, and really, that's enough. There are 2,430 games played in a major league regular season, so I'll need to see about a thousand games to ensure myself a good mathematical shot at seeing a no-hitter. That's more hot dogs and eight dollar beers than anyone should rightfully consume, but hey, a bucket list is a bucket list, right? (Don't answer that.)
8. Play catch on all seven continents (probably can't do Antarctica, but it doesn't hurt to try).
Immediate problem: a quick glance at the interwebs reveals there is some dispute over how many continents there are. Hard to play catch in places that may not (or may!) exist. Without wading too deep into those waters, I'll just say if you don't recognize the separate existence of South America, you're trying too hard. Also, how is Europe a separate continent from Asia? Look at a map, people!
But back to the baseball bucket list. Traveling the globe with my trusty glove in hand, looking for someone who could catch a ball and toss it back everywhere I go. Sounds like the worst Travel Channel show ever. Also sounds wonderful.
9. Get a beer with any one or more of the following: Billy Beane, Theo Epstein, Jon Daniels, or Jeff Luhnow.
There aren't a lot of interviews with baseball players that I enjoy reading. Mostly this isn't the fault of the players, who are asked endlessly repetitious questions over the course of their season. Sometimes someone's personality will shine through that barrage, but mostly the players seem to learn how to lock away the interesting stuff. That's especially true of general managers for whom manipulating the media is part of the job description. The best GMs also have the best stories. Baseball player stories are all about the time that reliever set his underwear on fire in the bullpen, but good GM stories are about how Albert Pujols should have been a Kansas City Royal, or how the Royals missed out on Stephen Strasburg by winning three meaningless games. More specifically I'd love to talk baseball to pick the brains of any of these guys.
10. Throw a pitch 80 miles per hour.
While at a minor league game a few months ago, I stepped into a radar gun booth. This particular one gave you three throws and clocked the speed of each. My best throw was 72 mph. I was proud of that until a few minutes later a kid who was half my age and twice my weight hit 76. I returned to the booth later that day to find out someone had hit 86! That someone was not me, but if some dude at a minor league game can hit 86, I should be able to pick those extra eight miles per hour up to reach 80 mph, right? I mean, I pitched in high school. Some of the food I eat isn't pizza. I have been known to get up off my couch and move about the room for periods of time that could be technically qualified as exercise.
If a trainer were around to tell me what to do -- as in what exercises to do, what to eat, what to lift, and how far to run -- I could do it. I could make incremental improvements, do some arm exercises and put in constant long toss, plus regular mound work. With all that, I'm sure I could pick up the eight mph necessary, and maybe, just maybe I could hit 82.5. What is 82.5? According to Brooks Baseball, 82.5 mph is roughly the slowest fastball Barry Zito has thrown this season. That's not likely the slowest pitch in baseball, but it's probably pretty close to the slowest fastball. And while it's a very slow major league fastball, it's still a major league fastball, so if I could thrown 82.5 mph, I'd technically have a major league fastball.
I could probably die after that.