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After 18 years I could hardly keep from laughing. It didn't matter that this was a town in the boondocks; I was going to play pro ball. What I did would go into the record books. They wouldn't let me play when I was young, but I was going to show them something now. When I stepped to the plate, the P.A. man announced, "Now batting for the Padres, Rocky Perone." I got set, waved my bat, took the first pitch low and away, and I thought, by God, it's really happening!
I got a base on balls—officially, not even a time at bat. I took a big lead and watched the pitcher's motion. After walking me, he was cautious about his control, taking an extra second to look toward the plate after he checked me at first. On the second pitch, I ran and I beat the throw easily, sliding to make sure I'd be safe. I got to my feet, dusted myself off and then looked up at a light tower, feeling like a nightclub star under a single spotlight.
Ha ha to all you scouts who passed me by.
Ha ha to all you managers who never gave me a chance.
Ha ha to all you front-office big shots who would choke on your checkbooks if you knew I was 36.
And hello, Doc Lister, you marvelous crazy bastard.
We did it!
I got a hit the next time up. I made a putout and a couple of assists. I did fine. Trouble was, I could see Bobby Hofman staring at me during the entire game. I had the feeling he was on to me.
When the game was over, he approached me. "Don't I know you?" he asked. "Where the devil have I seen you before?"
"Can't say, mate," I replied, trying to avoid his eyes.