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AuthorView – Ball Dudes

“Ball Dudes” By Ken White

On the television, Barry Bonds shoots a line drive foul that nearly decapitates old Mike Walt. Mike is a ball dude, one of two old farts hired by the Giants to patrol the foul lines chasing balls and tossing them to the fans before the fans fall out of the stands trying to get a souvenir. Kruk and Kuip, the play-by-play and color guys, point out that Mike and Mike Johnson, the other ball dude, had grown up together in Escalon, a little town just down the Stanislaus River from Modesto, and had played baseball together since third grade. “That’ll be us,” I tell George, who reclines on the couch sucking slowly on a Pediapop. We, too, have been best friends and teammates since third grade. I played second and wore #7, in honor of Mickey Mantle, the Mick. He played first and wore #30, in honor of Orlando Cepeda, the Baby Bull. “Some day,” he says, a little out of breath, in between long draws on the medicinal popsicle. “Be a little tough to bend over with this,” he adds, pointing at the stoma that feeds the plastic sack of body waste dangling at his emaciated waist. “Hell, old Mike can’t touch his toes, either,” I reply. Just then, old Mike lets one scoot between his legs, loses his balance, and topples ass-over-teakettle. “Maybe,” George says, and we both chuckle.

As I stand beside the wooden casket floating above the dark hole in the bright September sun, the day after the Giants sweep the Dodgers, I think of the ball dudes and all the other things my best friend and I will never do as planned. You see, cancer bats last.

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