Unaware of the professional aspect of this game, I had played recklessly as a child, adolescent, teenager and young adult. Walking down King Blvd to the liquor store – ironically named Sunshine Market in one of the darkest areas of the city. Enquiring those older than me to assist with getting my equipment. Midnight walks through my new neighborhood with my closest friend, bottles bats and gloves in hand – always playing. At Temple, off-campus, religiously at the state store, preparing for the weekends.
Always used as an escape from reality, any excuse would be suffice to hit the field, have a good time and play. My father took this route after playing in the minor league, hurt his knee and retired into this lifestyle. My environment dictated that I would perpetuate this cycle.
I’ve watched players before me, ushered onto the field, with various social titles, well-dressed and groomed, relished by their own cheerleaders, only to have these same fans abandon them during their slumps; bodies worn out, retired, well past their prime from abuse trying to get back on their feet through anonymous programs.
It took decades for me to realize this was a professional industry, I turned to that channel by accident. Realizing I had been playing this game, after several doubts and hesitation, I decided to go for try-outs to secure a spot on the varsity team, taking my name from one box with a glass ceiling and placing it in another which was as vast as the fields and vineyards on earth, only restricted by my own abilities.
I entered this athletic program about two years ago, thinking that the third season would be my final before retirement, changing focus and starting again. The coach, articulate, yet humble, provided me with a different perspective on the same game. The same game, that I’ve always known, with an altered view of the field, the equipment, the rules and the players.
His role, inspiration that lead to motivation, unlike others is humbly whispered from experience – a participant, a student always learning – instructor – teacher – Master of his craft, the Wine.
Understanding that this league is much different than where I came from – empty lots, broken glass, tattered fields surrounded by concrete, sprayed with numbers and names marking the potential of those that came before, with and after me. An uneven playing field where we always practiced with the cheapest makeshift equipment, due to our ignorance and lack of foresight into the outside world.
A lottery that permits an unlimited number of tickets to be registered and entered by a single player, whereas improvement to gain an edge is permitted and commonly accepted. Eventually hoping to be selected, the honor of having a jersey with my name – a representation of the niche within a sub-group in which I aspire to belong. Not entering the hall of fame among the masses, but bringing the knowledge to the common man; the peoples champ, one with an ability to diversify and widen the game, bringing in more spectators and participants into every level.
Dedicated to the unknown, even if it meant just remaining at the far end of the bench, and honor to be in the presence of greatness, ill soak up as much knowledge as I can from reading play books, videos and observations.
Looking at the scrimmage lineup, practice jerseys on the field. An all-star team at the summer camp during the off-season, before the pre-season, displaying their best talent, trying to their names known amongst the media.
I sit, eyes wide, determining my best approach, trying to familiarize myself with the field, the scent of dew on freshly cut grass, chocolate / toffee brown powdered dirt, and the wood that constitutes the composure of the bat. Reflecting on the past, my pallet tainted from years of liver turning hard working abuse.
Actions demonstrate better than books, however, the play book assists in giving me the technical knowledge to manifest my own routes…understanding the rules, I’ve created my own game. Time to take the bruises and failures that are bound to occur in the big league during each game on the way to my ultimate goal. Time to lace up and prepare to enter the arena.
A former student that inspired, instructed, taught, and eventually mastered the skill set of the selected few. Thank you MP, MW
TWA -Advanced Tasting Class, conducted by M.P. MW – in preparation for the J-Presence WSET diploma course – Unit 1 the following week