Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. I love them all.

You see, I play baseball for a living, and lived in the Midwest during my “AA” period. During that time, I ate more than my share of hot dogs and apple pie. As for Chevrolet, I guess they are in my blood because the brand-new Escalade that I drive is a part of a sponsorship deal.

It all sounds good, but like lots of good things, it came at a cost to me, and at times, to the others around me. You see, being drafted to Los Angeles was a dream come true. It was bright Lights, big City, for this small-town boy.

The old saying, “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”, couldn’t have been more wrong for me in the beginning.

I started hot. Way too hot. I was the toast of the sports town and soon enough I was being invited to every party that wanted a young sports celebrity in attendance. I was hooking up with every hot girl in the city. Starlets. Singers. T.V. stars. Baseball groupies, you name it. Most were just like me, small towners that came to Glitter City looking for fame and fortune. The only problem is that unlike me, they didn’t work almost every day and soon my game started to suffer, but I didn’t care.

Many times, or should I say many mornings, I would leave the parties and head directly to the park for a game or to the airport so that I didn’t miss a flight. Some of the younger players laughed about it, but the older players had seen bad things happen to more than one prospect.

The straw that broke the proverbial “camel’s back”, was my 21st birthday. I was “dating” a 32-year old movie star. She had a solid string of hits, making bank loads of money and was living the high life. She didn’t love me, hell I don’t even know if she liked me, but I was enamored with her. She was beautiful, sexy and graceful. It was something that I was not accustom to. We came from different worlds. I loved sports and she loved acting. The only thing that I knew for sure was that she liked to show me off.

I made it to her mansion after our game and the party was already in full swing. Like most of the parties that I had attended, I didn’t know many people. My girlfriend on the other hand claimed that she knew every single person there. Booze and other party favorites flew around the house. It was loud and obnoxious, and I loved it.

My responsibilities to my team and myself took a backseat. At 2:00am it was less than 11 hours until my next game. With a fresh drink in one hand and my super rich and famous girlfriend in the other, I was pulled upstairs for my birthday present.

Her room was ready. It was like nothing that I’d ever seen. It was straight out of a design magazine. The huge master bed was made up with fine white linens and flower petals. The bed looked good but what looked better was standing beside it. There was my girlfriend’s best-friend, she was European. A French actress that starred in many French films, including one where she played a lesbian. After tonight, I would always wonder if she was acting. She was just starting to make it onto the big screen in American movies, and there she was, naked and waiting. She had the sexy deep voice of a smoker, puffy lips, a cute gap in her teeth and an overall look that was hot as hell. Apparently, my present was to be her and the two of them, together and all at once. It was something very new to me, and I wasn’t about to say no.

I had watched their movies. I had seen interviews with them. But having them standing naked beside me was far more appealing to me than seeing them on any screen.

The last words I remember hearing were, “Lay back baby and let us take care of you. Happy Birthday lover”. From there it was a shit show. They took turns riding my face. They took turns riding each other’s faces. Then they rode me like I was a prize bull at the rodeo.

It wasn’t the first time that I’d had sex, but it was the first time with two women. I was amazed at having extra body parts at my command. It seemed like my dick would pop out of one hole just to be stuffed into another. I went from mouth to mouth, to pussy to pussy, pussy to mouth, to the fabled ass to mouth, more times than I can remember. You name it, it happened. When I needed a rest, the girls provided each other with attention. I had never watched two women 69 each other, only in a porn. It made me rock hard in an instant, but by the end of the night my cock was dead, and every inch of my body was covered in either saliva or juices of my lovers. We didn’t use any condoms. Concern for health and parenthood never played a role in our in-house porno. The very last thing that I remembered of that night was my girlfriend passed out on a sofa near her bed, and our French lover’s lips on my neck as her wet pussy pulled me deep inside her.

An alarm woke me, but I was already late. Stinky from the sex and alcohol I called an UBER and snuck out of her house. It was the worst day of my life. 0 – 4, with 3 strikeouts. It wasn’t bad enough that I puked in a garbage pail in the dugout, what made it worse is that it still shows up every so often on a sports “highlight” or in my case “lowlight” reel. Me barfing during the middle of a game with a bright red mark on the side of my neck. The sportscasters from cities around the country had lots of fun with it. Welcome to the big leagues kid.

That was the end of my first season. After which, I was known as a partying womanizer and some say that my antics led to poor play, and that had cost my team a shot at a playoff spot.

My birthday was the last time that I saw her. Our break-up wasn’t what one would call cordial. She let me know, in her words that I was “less than nothing. A piece of dirt. Florida white trash, a trailer park loser”. In fact, some of our more private moments had somehow mysteriously leaked to the gossip rags that every grocery store carried at the checkout counters. There were rumors that I had impregnated her French friend, but it turned out to be false. I will always remember her parting words to me. She was asking me if I thought that my contract was real money. Telling me that she paid her agent and publicist, more than I made per year. It was over with her, that much was for sure. But even to this day, when I see her in one of her movies, I can’t help but think about being with her and that other actress.

It took my whole second year to cleanse my soul and turn things around, but I did it. I was lucky that after my first year that they didn’t send me packing back to “AAA” ball, or even lower.

Spring training has just finished, and I will be starting my third year as a pro. I was drafted high by the Dodgers and this will be my second year starting at third base, I was finally living up to my team’s expectations of me. I love the old stadium and all the history that goes along with it. But being a pro ballplayer in Los Angeles can be a little bit surreal.

People want a piece of anything that they can get from you and for a small-town boy from Florida, it is a lot to live with, and I had learned all about it, the hard way. Now I held on to reality with a bit tighter grasp.

When I was young, we went to lots of Spring Training games in Clearwater and the surrounding areas. Hell, I watched baseball every single day, but until you are on the other side of the fence, you have no idea what it is like.

“Joe.” “Home, please.” “Joe.” “Home.” “Joe, please.” “Joe, come on.”

Yeah, that’s me. Joe Plato. Nicknamed, “Home”.

Sometime after I had hit a homerun or when I had thrown someone out at home, Dodgers color guy, and ex-Dodger, Rick Monday called me “Home Plato”, and it stuck.

It seems that every year that more and more people show up for batting practice. It has become part of the game experience and the screams can become distractions. I try to keep it from becoming so and always remember what it was like when I went to the park.

After my hits I always walk the fence line and sign caps, balls and shirts. It keeps everyone including me happy, but when the crowds go home L.A. can be a big, lonely place, especially for a small towner that no longer wants to be a party animal.

Today, when I had filled all of the screaming orders, I made my way deeper along the foul line. I was planning on tossing a ball around for a bit. Sitting a couple of rows up, I noticed a guy sitting with his program and a pencil. I had noticed him a few times last year and at least once this year at a pre-season game. He was always early to arrive so that he didn’t miss one second of batting practice or the game. He looked to be about 19 or 20, and not once did he scream or beg for a ball or a signature. The thing that was different today was that he was wearing a t-shirt with the Dodger logo over his heart, and my name and number screen printed under it and on the back.

He was watching my every move, but didn’t say a word, so I started.

“So, do you think that we have a chance against the Mets today?”

Sheepishly, he looked at his program and said, “Syndergaard is starting. You’ll take him deep if you wait. Deep for sure.”

“I hope you’re right. Can I borrow your pen for a second?” There was something about him that made me think that he was possibly older than he appeared.

Reluctantly, he stood and climbed over the rows in front of him and handed me his pen.

I signed my name, put my jersey number on, and dated the ball. Dating a ball is something that I normally don’t do because it just takes to damn long, but it felt like it was something that he might want.

Returning his pen, I tossed the ball up and he caught it in his beat-up, vintage first baseman’s glove.

Tossing the ball around with our third base coach, he gave me some pointers and talked about the kid I just talked to.

“Home, I never see that kid talking to anybody. Now look at him. He’s showing that goddamned ball to everyone near him.”

“Cool. I’m glad that he’s happy.”

“Yeah he’s with a group that gets free tickets about 2 or 3 times a year. Fight Autism or something like that.”

I looked over a few times and he was staring at the ball in his glove, so when I headed back to the dugout, I stopped in front of him again.

This time there was no hesitation when I motioned him over.

“You really think that I’ll take Noah long?”

“For sure. Yeah, for sure. Just don’t swing at his first pitch. And if he’s got a 2 and 1 count on you, look for his heat to come right down the pipe.”

Undoing my practice jersey as we were talking, I laughed and said, “thanks for the tip”.

“Yeah. Yeah, no problem. My sister and I love to watch you play.”

Looking at the crowd that he was sitting with, it was hard to tell which was his sister, but a larger dark-haired girl waved at me, so I returned the wave and assumed that it was her.

“Here”. I handed him my jersey and my Rawlings glove, which was not meant to be offensive, but it was a huge improvement on the glove he had. “I’m Joe, by the way.”

“Matthew. Matthew. I’m Matthew.”

“Tell you what Matthew. If I get lucky enough to use your tip and put one out, stay in your seats and I’ll have someone come over after the game and get you. You, and your sister can come into the dressing room and meet some of the guys. We’ll get you a bat for the guys to sign.”

“No. No way. Really?”

“Yeah, but only if I go long.”

Well, Matthew was smiling and screaming in the second and the seventh. Both times I sent it deep, but only the first one was off of Syndergaard.

After most of the media had cleared, Mack the equipment manager brought Matthew into the dressing and he couldn’t have been happier.

“I told you. Right Joe. I told you right?”

“Yeah buddy, you sure did. Where’s your sister?”

“Waiting in the hall.” Matthew looked around in awe of the dressing room

“Grab a pop or something. What size are your feet?”


“Hey, Mack. Can you see if you can find my buddy Matthew a pair of size 10’s and a couple of caps.”

Wearing my jersey, a new cap, his new soft sole cleats and his new glove, Matthew made the rounds asking for autographs on the same bat that I had used for the two dingers.

“You coming to the game on Tuesday?” Monday was an off day for us.

“No. My sister has school and work. We. We don’t come much. We can’t really afford it. No money for this kinda stuff. I won’t be able to come for a couple of months.”

My heart broke a little. My new buddy was standing with a bunch of new stuff, for which he seemed very happy. Yet he was sad about not being able to come to another game.

“You gotta phone?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

“Promise not to give anyone my number?” Matthew looked over both his shoulders and around the room. I think for a second that he thought that I was kidding, but he nodded in agreement anyway. Holding out my hand, he gave his old flip to me, and I entered my number.

“You text me anytime that you want tickets and I’ll leave two at the box office for you. I get them and never use them. Maybe you can give me some more tips.”

“Yeah sure. Sure yeah. I’d do that. I know all the pitcher’s weakness. Thanks Joe.” And he was gone.

The next week was good for the team. We went 5 and 2. Then we headed out on the road for a 9-game stint. We lost the first two, with me going 0 for 4 both nights. Added to that, I had 6 strikeouts.

Back in my room, I opened a beer and watched the sports news. The Pittsburgh station was happily telling the world how much I sucked.

Not many messages on my phone, but one of them struck me as odd. “You’re swinging too much. Slow down and wait for your pitch. And don’t choke up so much.” That was it, nothing else.

Well, whomever sent the text was right. I loosened up a bit. Slid the bat down in my hands, watched a couple go by and went 3 for 4, with a walk. Man, I’d take that every day. And, so went the rest of the road trip. We played well and returned with a winning record.

Returning home, we had a weekend stand against the Padres. We split the first two and Sunday’s game was going to be a good one.

Sitting alone in a big home that was meant to be an investment and turned out to be far too big for one person, I watched the twinkling lights of L.A. below me. I could hear parties in homes and neighborhoods that surrounded me, but it wasn’t me.

Instead, I swam in a heated and when needed, cooled infinity pool while listening to one of California’s better classic rock stations.

I heard the ping indicator for a text and picked up my phone. Two missed calls from numbers that I didn’t recognize and a text from a number that I had no idea who it was, until I read the message.

“If your offer for tickets is still good, we can come tomorrow. Tomorrow would work.” It was my buddy Matthew, so I added that name into the information. What I was concerned with, is that a message had come from the same number two weeks ago. It was the “choke up” tip, and at the time, I didn’t know who had sent it.

“Sure buddy, they’ll be at the gate.”

Over the next two weeks Matthew came to 4 games. He and I spoke every time. He was grateful, and not once did he ask for anything other than the tickets that had been offered. After one of the afternoon games, long after the game had finished, I was leaving the parking lot and saw Matthew waiting by a bus stop. Pulling up, I honked.

“Hey buddy. Did you miss your ride?”

“No. No. I took the bus. Waiting for the next one.”

“Jump in. I’ll give you a ride.

“I live in the valley.”

“So, I got nothing else to do. Let’s go.” Matthew got in and buckled up. He looked around, checking out the vehicle.

“This is nice Joe, real nice.”


“We have a 1988 Toyota Corolla.”


“It’s not. Really, it’s not.” I couldn’t help but laugh. He hadn’t meant for it to be funny, but it kinda was.

“Why the bus today.”

“My sister was working, but I hate the Yankees and I had to come and see them. It was my first time ever.”

“Cool. How long is that bus ride?”

“90 minutes, give or take.”

Ten minutes into our ride, Matthews phone rang and from his end of the conversation, I could tell that he was getting shit from someone.

“The game. No. I got a ride home. No Beth. I don’t know. I know I’m late. It doesn’t matter. I told you, the game. I don’t know, maybe 20 minutes, maybe less. I’m sorry. A friend. I know. I’ll ask.” He looked at me, “are you staying for supper? It’s my turn to cook.”

“I hadn’t planned on it.” I remembered what Matthew had told me earlier about not being able to afford tickets, so I wasn’t about to impose. “But because you’re late, we can pick something up and bring it home for you guys, if you want.”

“Sorry. I know Beth. I will bring something home. 15 bucks. I know.” I could see that he was not happy to be having this conversation in front of me.

Turns out that his sister had to work. Matthew was supposed to stay home and start supper. Instead he took a bus to the game. Missed his bus home and was waiting for the next one and would have been much later than this if I hadn’t picked him up. That much I was able to get from him.

“Is she pissed?”

“Yes. Very angry.”

“What does she like to eat?”

“Johnny Rockets is her favorite, but it’s expensive.” I handed Matthew my phone and had him pinpoint where the closest location was. We called in an order for curbside pick-up and 30 minutes later we pulled up in front of his apartment building. Matthew and dinner were safely home.

An extremely attractive, tall blonde, maybe 5’8 or 5’9″ was headed directly for us. She was wearing a yellow paisley sun dress and a half-length black sweater, with beige leather sandals. She looked hot as hell and pissed off all at the same time, but I didn’t know why. I started to wonder if I had pulled into her parking spot by mistake.

“You know her?”

“It’s my sister.”

“I thought that your sister was sitting next to you at the game the other day, and the first day we met?”

“No. Nope.” Matthew shook his head and gave me a strange look. “That’s Angela. Angela. She works at the Learning Center. This is Beth. My sister.”

“Well buddy, she looks pissed off. I think we’re both in big shit.”

“Even deeper if she hears you swearing like that. Plus, she won’t be happy when she sees all this food. She knows that I only had $15 on me.”

Matthew introduced us, but he didn’t need to. Beth knew very well who I was, yet it still didn’t impress her enough to spare me her wrath and she couldn’t have cared less if I knew who she was. Beth told me that even with the free tickets, they couldn’t go to every game. She worked and attended school, Matthew also attended some special classes and he had daily duties that included starting dinner when it was his turn.

Standing with his hands full of food bags and a drink tray, Matthew was looking very much the part of a scolded puppy. Beth’s mood changed slightly, and she invited me in to join them. Their apartment was clean, and hot. Even though it was only early June, the warm air combined with the lack of air conditioning made it sticky.

Everyone quietly enjoyed their food. Looking around, I found that their television was probably older than the Corolla that Matthew had mentioned before. When Beth excused herself from the table, I sent a text to a friend and his response was immediate. I sent him some info and he put the wheels in motion.

After dinner, it was agreed that Matthew would no longer sneak to games. He would suffer by having to listen on the radio to those that were not on regular channels. Watching all of the games was impossible for him as they didn’t have cable or internet for that matter. For over an hour Matthew and I watched the A’s game, while Beth did some homework on a beat-up old laptop.