Today we have a pinch-hit post courtesy of one of our readers, Kirk Peckham. A courier, Kirk worked the Yorkdale route where Carlos Delgado lived. One day when dropping off a package, Kirk struck up a conversation with Carlos about baseball. Carlos in turn gave Kirk passes to a Blue Jays game. Below is his story.
May 02, 2003 was the greatest day of my life. I had two guest passes from Carlos Delgado. Did I win a lottery? Was I rich or influential? The answer is no. I’m a simple guy who loves baseball that was at the right place at the right time.
I took my girlfriend Gilda to the game. She was unique in many ways. For one, she had dreams or premonitions that would come true. Truthfully, if she felt something good or bad was going to happen. It did. She deserved the privilege more than I did. At the time, she was suffering a painful, chronic illness.
3:30 pm. We arrived at The Skydome (now Rogers centre). Toronto was playing The Anaheim Angels. Anaheim won the World Series in 2002. We walked over to our gate and showed our passes to the ticket agent. The man smiled and told us to take the elevator down and we will be shown the way to the field. I was excited and in disbelief. I asked Gilda to pinch me. She laughed. We arrived at our level. The guy in the elevator told us to go to entrance number six and walk down to the field from there. It was still early and not crowded. A young girl at a beer booth was busy stocking up her fridge. We walked along the concrete corridor until we found Gate 6. Our descent to the field had begun. I could see the Angels were taking batting practice. A group of fans were in the first row trying to get autographs. Some of the Jays were throwing the ball near the dugout. We had to walk slowly because Gilda was ill and needed a cane. We were halfway down the bleachers when I noticed a lot of players and staff looking up at us. Finally, we made it to the entrance to the field. A young blonde woman looked at our passes and escorted us to The Blue Jays dugout. I felt like a kid again. Only I was walking through the biggest candy store in the world. We both sat down on the dugout bench. “I’ll let Carlos know you’re here,” she said. “Thank you,” I said, still taking it all in.
A few minutes later, Carlos entered the dugout. “He’s here,” I whispered to Gilda. We both stood up to greet him. He greeted Gilda and was in some shock when he saw her. She was pale, underweight, yet she hid her pain quite well. I smiled and shook his hand feverishly. Carlos sat down and talked to Gilda for a few minutes. I was busy looking around and soaking in everything that was happening around me. “So, how’s it going Kirk?” Carlos asked. I didn’t respond. “Kirk!” Gilda yelled. “Yes, oh sorry. What was the question?” Carlos laughed. “How’s it going?” “Good, but I feel numb.” “You’re numb,” he reiterated. “Did you bring a ball?” Carlos asked. “Yes, right here.” I reached in my pocket and gave it to him. “Sylvia, could you pass me a sharpie please?” Carlos asked politely. He autographed the ball. I walked over to Shannon Stewart and introduced myself. He autographed the ball. “You look like a ball player. Did you play?”, he asked. “Yeah.” “Whereabouts?” “The Bad News Bears mostly,” I expressed with a foolish smirk. Shannon almost fell off the bench.
Carlos went to grab one of his bats and walked over to Gilda. He signed the bat and presented it to her. He then gave me two tickets to the game. “Be careful of the foul balls,” he said looking at Gilda. “Don’t worry I’ll catch it.” I calmly said while holding my glove. “I hear you,” Carlos mentioned. Gilda took a card out of her purse and gave it to Carlos. “What’s this?” “A little something from us.” “Thank you,” he replied. “If you’ll both excuse me, I’m going to eat something. Enjoy the game.” He disappeared into the clubhouse.
A man who looked to be in his early sixties approached from the sidelines. He had a wide, stubby nose and his hair line receded. He was wearing dress pants, a blazer and a turtleneck. “Hi Tom!” I yelled over. I didn’t know Tom Cheek personally, but I recognized him as the voice of The Blue Jays. We introduced ourselves and talked about how great the game of baseball is. He was a gentle, honest and polite man. The players were coming off the field. I saw J.P walking over. I hooked him into the dugout too.
“I understand you’re from Boston,” I said.
“It’s a nice city.”
-“You’ve been there?
“Downtown. I was there for a convention.”
I felt like I was in an interview. “We’re guests of Carlos,” I told him. “What do you think of him as a player?” J.P asked eagerly. “He’s a great player.” “He’s going to do a lot for you,” Gilda said in a confident manner. J.P looked at her intently. “These three games will be a test for us because we’re playing the World Champs,” he proclaimed. “You’re going to beat them.” Gilda replied.
I picked out the card for Carlos. On the outside was a photograph of a boy about six years old sitting in the bleachers of an empty Old Tiger’s stadium. He was wearing a baseball cap and glove. On the inside I wrote:
Baseball: The greatest game:
Your slide home on a sac fly and the umpire yells, “safe!”
Your first hit after being called up
The crack of the bat after hitting the ball on the sweet zone
Eating a steamed hot dog and drinking an ice cold beer during the game
A young boy’s expression after a player gives a foul ball to him
A centre fielder’s gun of an arm that picks off the runner trying for second
The energy generated from a crowd of 50,000 fans during a playoff game
Reaching for the “gamer,” Rawlings M491B, 34 inch and 32 ounce bat.
Kirk and Gilda
We had seats directly behind home plate. It was the bottom of the first and a man on second and third. Carlos was up to bat. He looked up at me before he stepped into the batters box. Ball one. The second pitch he swung and missed. The third missed outside. Lackey set and fired. Carlos launched the ball into the upper deck. The crack of the bat echoed throughout the dome. The fans stood up and cheered. Those were the only runs the Jays needed to beat Anaheim 3-1. Players and coaches lined up to shake hands. Fans were leaving. As Carlos walked towards the dugout, he looked up at me again. I smiled and tipped my baseball hat to him. The Jays ended up sweeping The Angels.
Carlos went on to have one of the best years of his career. He had a .302 BA. He hit 42 Homeruns (2nd in the American League). .593 SLG. 145 RBIs (first in majors). On September 25, 2003 Carlos tied Lou Gehrig and Willie Mays for the most home runs in a game at 4. He came 2nd in American League MVP voting. He won the 2003 silver slugger award. And he was selected to the 2003 American League All-Star team. Not bad for a 31 year old player. I would argue that Bill James is wrong to say that a player’s best years are between the ages 25-29. Based on what happened that day I believe in the magic of baseball. Players have reasons to rely on some superstition and luck. It’s not just a numbers game. Carlos was traded in 2005. He never matched those numbers of 2003 again.
© Kirk Peckham 2010.
Kirk a freelance Writer. His day job is delivering and picking up packages. A published poet, Kirk co-wrote lyrics to a song that won “runner up” in VH-1 Song of The Year in two different categories for Oct/08-Oct/09-Dec/09. Kirk lives in Toronto and loves the game of baseball. Click on the link to email Kirk Peckham.