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Danny Cohen had the inside dope. Danny worked in the ticket sales office at Comiskey Park and back in February was one of the first to find out that the White Sox were going to hold a free-agent try-out. "You could maybe make the team," he said. I had not told Danny about my baseball experience. It consisted of three Little League games 16 years ago. I had quit because I got too hungry standing out in left field.
"They're looking for speed and throwing," Danny said. "If they see you do those things well, they might let you hit." One more thing. They were looking for youth. Well, perhaps I could do something about my age—28.
On a Tuesday several weeks later I line up with the other hopefuls along 35th Street outside Comiskey Park. They seem to range in age from 16 to the early 30s. They have on a variety of softball shirts, sweat pants and caps, and one of the guys is decked out in an exact replica of the Houston Astros uniform, except that it has the words FAMILY KITCHEN across the chest. Several of the players are wearing batting helmets, pushed down hard on their heads. Periodically, they take ferocious swings with imaginary bats.
I look at the players behind me. "Well, fellows," I say, "what kind of shot you think we've got today?" They shrug and fidget. "I heard Dan Driessen of the Reds made it at a free-agent tryout," one of them says, looking dreamily off in the general direction of Cincinnati. "It's a long shot. But you never can tell."
At the check-in desk a woman asks my position and age. "Outfield," I say, pulling my cap low on my forehead. "Eighteen." She gives me a number without looking up. If I make the team and they wonder how 10 years have been shaved off my age, I can blame it on her. Inside the park I run into a gray-haired man in a spotless White Sox uniform. One of the scouts. "Excuse me, Coach," I say. "But do guys ever make it from these tryouts?" He looks somewhat startled. "Not from this area too much," he says.
"Didn't Dan Driessen make it at a free-agent tryout?"
"That's what I hear."
We both ponder this a moment.
"Well, you never can tell," I say.
"No, you can't," he says.