Then I got on the
field and in 15 minutes everything changed. It was like in the movies when some
slob comes off the street into a fancy nightclub and sings like Mario Lanza.
They hit me ground balls, and I dug them out as though I owned the ball park. I
covered the ground like I was on skates. Then I hit clotheslines to all fields
and from both sides of the plate. I gave them such a show that the college kids
not only stopped laughing at my rube appearance, but they also stopped
practicing to watch. I was so hot that I told myself to be careful or Marshall
would smell a rat. So when he told me to lay a few down, I asked him what that
he said. "Let's see you bunt."
Richard Pohle can
bunt like Ty Cobb, but Rocky Perone looked like a bum. And sure enough, it made
everything else seem right.
"I heard you
came to the States for an education," the college coach said as he pulled
right, mate," I said.
don't you consider coming here?" We'll take care of you, son. Everything
Marshall took me
to dinner and told me he was convinced I was a big league prospect, that he was
going to call Robert Fontaine, director of player personnel for the Padres.
"I don't know, mate," I conned him. "I came here to get an
always get an education, Rocky," Marshall said. "I'm giving you a
chance to play pro ball. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
And sure enough,
Marshall appeared the next day with a contract in hand. If this was a movie,
great music would be soaring in the background. It didn't matter that I was to
report to Walla Walla, Wash., a Padre farm club, or that I'd be getting a lousy
$500 a month with an incentive bonus if I stayed through the season. I didn't
care about such trivia. What mattered was that this was a professional baseball
players contract and that I was signing it.
So it was that
the big day came in San Diego when I was asked to work out with the Padres
before a game with the Reds. Like I said, I wasn't feeling too sure of myself.
Lister tried to reassure me. "Enjoy it," he said. "Remember, you're
a kid playing with the big boys for the first time. It's a thrill, Rich, a
great big thrill!"