Word of the Washington Senators never even got to the D.C. projects where I grew up. We didn't even know there was a major league baseball team in town. Our baseball heroes were these old guys who played on Sundays in mismatched uniforms, argyle socks under the stirrups, and a half-pint of whiskey in the back pocket. A half-pint, because that fit right in. If these guys didn't get too drunk on Saturday nights, they were out there playing on Sundays. And all us kids wanted to do was grow up and be just like themincluding the half-pint.
But one day when I was about 11 years old, a baseball player from the Senators came to our playground to conduct a clinicand he was white. It was the very first time I had ever looked a white guy in the eyes. Honest. People just didn't interact as we do today. This guy was wearing an official Washington Senators home uniform, crisp and white with piping around the sleeves and Senators embroidered across his chest. Everything matched. His shoes were all clean and polished. And his eyes weren't all red. The player's name was Jerry Priddy, and he was the second baseman for the Senators. Maybe Priddy had lost a coin toss or something and had to be the one to go over to our part of town and do a little clinic for the organization. But he came over, and he didn't stay for just 15 minutes or half an hour. The man talked to us for at least two hours, and I just couldn't believe it. Priddy even singled me out. He told the other kids to move back and said, "Watch this kid." He bounced a grounder to me, and I got my little feet in place, grabbed the ball, and I took a little hopjust like the guys I'd seen playing on Sundays. I threw it overhand to him, and the ball made a loud pop in his mitt. I still remember what he said: "Wow!" Priddy looked down at my feet and said, "Hey, kid, you've got a chance to be a good baseball player one day. Where's your shoes?" I was barefoot.
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