At the mall, I barely glanced as an empty wheelchair passed by,
But then its occupant – shrunken and old – caught my eye.
He wore a brown Padre cap and shirt over white hair,
His name in yellow on the back of his chair.
I took a chance, “Hey, Vince, how you been?”
The chair slowed. Vince touched his leg where a knee should be.
He spoke, his voice quite low, “Who, me? Oh, you know,
Spend my days at the Home, just old and in the way.”
To his attendant, I said, “Vince was a legend in his day,
Rifle arm, great glove, fast as a stallion,
In today’s market, he’d sign for a million.”
Vince sat up straight and grabbed my hand,
His eyes misted over, he recalled another land,
Of bat and ball, flashing spikes, lime dust, and umpire’s call.
Far from the shopping mob and throbbing mall.
“Thanks for what you said, but it won’t be long ‘tiI I’m dead,
Until they cart me away, I’ll stay old and in the way.”
His chair rolled off, leaving me alone to wonder,
What about life makes us hunger,
For days when we were younger?
My wife, who’d seen this all unfold,
Said, “You knocked that one over the fence,
But you didn’t play with Vince. You’re not that old.”
I shrugged, “I saw his outfit the truth be told,
And thought he might have played our game.
You see him smile when I called his name? “
Like Vince, I’m afraid my time at the old ball yard has passed,
I was weak of arm, with not much leather, never quick nor fast,
But played with grit and spit, even if I couldn’t hit.
When I wait for called Strike Three,
I hope someone misremembers me,
And tells you I hit better than Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew,
With ducks in the pond, like Musial or Trout,
I never made an out.
If I get that shout, they can carry me off some day
And I won’t mind being old and in the way.