Office trends have come and gone over the years of my career, from fax machines to Zoom screens, but one constant has been baseball. Not in the James Earl Jones/Thomas Mann sense from “Field of Dreams.” I mean literally a single baseball.
Years back when I was working in San Francisco, a PR firm sent a news release that included a regulation-size major league baseball on which was printed the company’s logo. Chances are I canned the release as not newsworthy, and I can’t find any trace of the firm on the web. But I kept the baseball and to this day have it at my desk.
The ball long ago lost its fresh-cowhide aroma, but the stitches are still a deep, rich red. The ball is a talisman, a touch point of reassurance when a problem arises.
I have handled this ball a million times, fiddling with it while contemplating a solution to some knotty problem or subconsciously tossing it from hand to hand while trying to concentrate on what is being discussed on a 17-person conference call across six time zones.
I go through the grips for two- and four-seam fastballs. I set my fingers slightly off center to recreate the slider grip for my “out” pitch in Little League. I put full pressure on my middle finger and ease up on the index finger, imaging the 12-to-6 drop my curve would make if I tossed it across the office (or from the mound at Yankee Stadium).
Once in a while, I even try to recreate my dad’s knuckle ball grip, continually frustrated that my gene pool did not supply me with longer fingers.
The ball is as essential to my desk as my telephone headset, pen and pencil cup, and red Swingline stapler. The ball is in good company with my Buster Posey action figure and my San Jose Mercury News coaster celebrating the Giants’ 2014 championship.
These amulets protect and inspire me, and I expect that to continue for years to come.