Another Dumb Decision

2 09 2013

Just wondering, other than approaching a mama elephant guarding her young (see my earlier post AAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!! Posted July 14, 2012), what other stupid things have I done over the years-at least something I’m willing to own up to in a public forum. This is a story I’m hesitant to share, but in the interest of safety, I’ll do it in hopes that you will realize the same thing can happen to you…that is, if you’re stupid enough to do what I did.

 

It was about twenty-nine years ago when my oldest son, who was nine at the time, was playing little league baseball. Unlike most parents, my wife and I never, and I mean never, dropped any of our kids off at practice for whatever sport they were playing. If neither of us was able to stick around for the entire practice, then he didn’t practice that day; but one of us, usually me, was always there.

 

Never Volunteer for Anything!

At this particular practice, other than the coach, I was the only parent there. In addition, neither the assistant coach nor the team catcher showed up. So, when the coach got ready for batting practice, seeing no one else available, I volunteered to get behind the plate and catch. Only problem was the only catcher’s mask was small enough to fit an 8-year old. There being no 8-year-old around willing to put it on, I gave it an honest effort but simply couldn’t squeeze my man-sized head inside that elfin-sized mask. It was like Shaq O’Neal squeezing his big butt into that LaCrosse in the Buick commercial. C’mon, Shaq, don’t try to tell me you are comfortable with plenty of leg room. I can see your knees under your nose. You look like a size 12 foot in a size 6 shoe. So, I did the only logical thing-I squatted down behind home plate sans any face protection. I said logical, not smart.

 
The coach was pitching, but since these were just little kids, he was just lobbing the ball over the plate-no real heat, so I felt relatively safe. At this point, I feel inclined to remind you that I have been a practicing safety professional for the past 36 years.

 
Things went well for about three or four batters. I was enjoying the chance to get back into the game and growing ever more confident with every pitch that thudded into the mitt.

 
Then it happened. One of the batters hit a foul tip which came off the bat and smacked me right on the nose. Catchers will go most games and never have a ball hit them in the mask. I squat behind the plate with no mask just once and fall victim to Murphy’s Law within a few minutes.

 

For the next few moments, I was unable to see beyond the stars to tell if that was blood or sweat running down my face, although the look on the coach’s face indicated it was the former. But I knew that at least some of it had to be tears. When things finally came back into focus and I had the bleeding under control, I told the coach he could throw pitches off the backstop and I’d safely pick them up off the ground and throw them back.

 
Wait…it gets worse.

 

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It usually takes a day or two following such an injury before the purple bruising begins to appear. I was scheduled to speak the following week at the annual North Carolina Statewide Safety Conference. By the time I took the podium five days later, in front of a room filled with safety professionals and non-safety professionals seeking safety knowledge, both eyes were in full bloom with a rich mottled black and blue surrounded by a nice yellow border with just a hint of purple. I looked like Rocky Raccoon or the Lone Ranger. I’d walk into a bank and everyone would hit the floor. I gave my speech and afterward, some guy said, “Kemosabe speak good words. Help many braves not get hurt.” I can’t tell you how many times during that conference, I was asked what happened. I finally began replying that I was attacked by a motorcycle gang while visiting my mother’s grave. It was much more plausible than the truth and far less embarrassing. Lesson learned!

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