By Matt Heet
The picture above may represent a cultural gap between generations, especially for baseball players. Back in my day, an unfortunate statement since I am merely 39 years old, when our throwing arm was sore this would be a typical treatment, some sort of pain relief cream that would burn until it turned your arm numb (Yeah, I grew up in an era of no pitch counts, now get off my lawn!!). It could also become an issue if you forgot to wash your hands immediately after applying the cream and touch any other part of your body that may be sensitive, such as your eyes (it only stings for about 45 minutes). In today’s age the common treatment to sore arms revolves around an amount of ibuprofen that is slightly greater than a doctor’s recommendation. Enough on the history lesson of pain relieving creams, although I understand that does create an abnormal amount of website traffic for many people.
Back in the 1980’s I had a critical job, which if I was paid could have violated many of the labor laws in our great country, a bat boy for an amateur slow-pitch softball team. Growingup my dad played a considerable amount of softball and on many occasions I was allowed to tag along and be a mascot of sorts. Although my dad’s teams were not professional, they were highly competitive and were always one of the stronger teams in their league. One year they decided to participate in a national tournament in south St. Louis, which brought in a collection of professional teams. The tournament consisted of round-robin play where you were podded with a small group of teams to determine your seed for the double elimination tournament to determine national champion. Dad’s team had a professional team in their pod, Bell Corp, which had a collection of bulky athlets that included a shortstop who had played for the New York Mets. Bell Corp was narrowly victorious with the highlight of the game being a near fight after a Bell Corp player hit a line drive back at the pitcher (an unwritten rule in slow-pitch, especially during lopsided games), my father ironically enough. With cat-like speed and reflexes my father caught the ball with his glove, and not his face. My father stayed calm as the Bell Corp batter apologized for his error, but the second baseman lost his temper, eventually cooler heads would prevail.
As the double elimination portion of the tournament arrived the shortstop on my father’s team (we’ll call him Frank) was dealing with discomfort with his groin, his solution? You guessed it, BENGAY. If you’re not a major in anatomy you should understand that the humor in this story resides in the fact that your groin is located in close proximity to crucial reproductive organs that are extremely sensitive. Maybe I shouldn’t have heard all the language (being I was in elementary school), but Frank gave me lesson in stringing curse words together each inning he came in from the field. Frank seemed to have been a bit too careless in his application of BENGAY around such a sensitive area, and the rest of us were there to create comedy from his pain.
So, what is the life lesson?
As I have aged I have gained so much appreciation for being allowed access to these situations when I was young. My appreciation comes from my mother and father allowing me opportunities to interact with a wide variety of people, which has served me well as a teacher, and an adult. It may sound bad to some people that since my father’s softball team was sponsored by a bar often times we ended up at the bar after games on Friday nights. These times were great because the softball team embraced my presence. I spent the whole night playing Pop-a-Shot, pinball, or another arcade game against these men. The only negative I can think of is since there was no laws concerning smoking in public places indoors that it stunted my growth, I was supposed to be 6’4″, but ended up 5’11”. Here I am, a young boy and at least one night a week in the spring and summer I am getting an opportunity to interact with adults from a variety walks of life; businessmen, firefighters, police officers, entrepreneurs, the list goes on. So what if I may have stayed up past by bed time? At dad’s Sunday games is where adults taught me how to throw a curve ball and change up, all the while spending time in Forest Park. These are all great men who took their time to positively impact a boy, and it all happened because my parents allowed me an opportunity to explore relationships. By the time I was ten I could hold conversations with adult men and women, children my age, and relate to children younger than me.
This is what my job entails today; teaching is about building relationships with your co-workers, parents, students, and community to make the greatest impact possible. I’ve been getting to practice for my profession since I was a bat boy in the late 1980’s, and I would like to think that with over 30 years of practice I have built some skills in developing relationships with a wide variety of people from many walks of life. I’ve been able to thrive socially on a basketball team in high school where I was a minority (I’m a white male which makes that unique), I was able to succeed sitting in classrooms with 400 other people in college, and now I teach in a rural area where I currently have a student wearing cowboy boots, American flag shorts, a Chevy t-shirt, and a camouflage hat, and there is less people in the high school than my high school graduating class. I’ve coached girls sports and boys sports. I’ve coached players as young as 5 at basketball camps and as old as seniors in high school. I teach high school students social studies and psychology who are dealing with drug addiction, loss of parents, homelessness, abuse, and any number of other factors that could make any of us mentally crumble. I am able to mange all these settings because of the opportunities to communicate with others during my youth.
But most importantly, beyond all the information I just provided, to this day I have not put BENGAY on my groin, thank you Frank.