"Gee, I wonder what this is about," another teammate said later, interrupting Esasky in an interview. "You've finally decided to come out of the closet?"
"They joke about it. They'll ask me if this bothers me," says Esasky, thrusting his hands out in front of him. "But they care. If you can't laugh about it, it will wear you out."
He had kept that in mind when his children came home from school in Marietta, where their father was supposed to be a baseball savior of sorts. "It's almost like they don't have lives of their own," says Esasky. "Instead of saying, 'Hi, Kimberly,' or 'Hi, Jennifer,' the first thing people say to them is, 'How's your dad?' or 'What's your dad doing?' "
Esasky understood when the Braves signed free-agent first baseman Sid Bream to a three-year, $5.6 million contract in December. And he has tried to keep his good humor while reading the bricks of mail that continue to wall his home and lockers. "Some people say they can't get out of bed for three days. Some are totally incapacitated. One said, 'I went to all these doctors, I went out of the country, I spent $50,000, and I'm still having this problem. If you ever find what can help you, please let me know. Here's my name and address.' Another guy wrote to say he's had this problem for many years, he has to live with it, but he has a positive outlook. So some of the letters have made me feel like I can handle this; others make me feel like, man, this thing could last all my life."
Then he says something that, in this spring of swollen egos and arbitrations and renegotiations, is almost startling. "Either way, I will be taken care of," Esasky says. "This has taught me that there are a lot of people out there with problems much worse than mine."
And for just a minute you think that maybe his perspective is the right one, and everyone else's needs readjusting.