Before the ballgame…..



(c)Photo by Vincent J. Kern — 2003 — Copyright and All Rights reserved


Almost 20 minutes to game time the third baseman finished his requisite stretching, sat on the field on a perfect summer evening and looked around.He had arrived in this town three days earlier and played two games in Detroit so far. Tonight would be the last before heading to Baltimore in the morning for another set. But right now, as the ground crew in maroon shirts took to the infield to prepare it for nine innings of ball, Eric Hinske just sat on the plush grass of Comerica Park and gazed at his surroundings.


If he knew I was there at the edge of the field, he didn’t let on. Perhaps it was that a camera is such a familiar site to him or perhaps he knew I was after candid shots and he understood the framework that is required for candor in art. Maybe he was thinking of his girlfriend or wife and was oblivious to the few people in the ballpark so far.

I have been where he is in so many ways. Although never a professional athlete, I have played baseball and hockey at very high levels in my younger days. I have traveled professionally and found myself sitting on a plush grass carpet preparing for the next game. And as I snapped photos on that perfect summer night last week I wondered how it really would have been if my dream of being a Major League ballplayer had come true.

Eric Hinske and the ballplayers were giving heavy vibes that night and I was there to feel and record them. And on I wondered, who is this guy who now is being published on the web? What do I really know about the man behind the image — a piece of personal art?

Here’s a few things I can tell you about him: He’ll be 26 on August 5 and was born in Neenah, Wisconsin. He’s 6’2″ and weights 225 lbs. is hitting .249 with 39 RBI and 6 Home Runs and he earns $600,000 a year playing baseball for a living.

Surprisingly enough, that’s near the minimum salary for baseball players.

But I’m not writing tonight about money. It’s about the looking around.

When was the last time you had a chance or took the time to really look around? I don’t need to describe it, you know what I mean.

Out of the blue a couple of days ago came the story about the Iranian twins who were joined at the skull and were about to undergo surgery to separate them. They never knew the simple pleasure of looking into each other’s eyes without a mirror or picture. They had separate professional desires but one bowed to the other’s preference hoping to pursue her own after the operation.

The government of Iran paid the $300,000 cost of the surgery and so yesterday it started. And today, on my drive to work I had to flip my pager to find news — I needed to know how they were enduring and needed to know now. I read the three sentence brief that they had both passed away and minutes later my wife called to ask if I had heard.

I spent the rest of the day looking around.

I looked closer and softer at all of the human life that surrounded me. I marveled through my office window at the local NBC affiliate’s helicopter taking off and landing as it does routinely five or six times a day across the street. I read the paper about how the nation of Iran had adopted these twins as national figures and how a whole country grieved for two of its own. Everyone had hoped………

But sad as it was, the looking around provided clarity. A few days ago, I watched Eric Hinske prepare to go to work. How different is he than anyone else? Surely not much.

He probably left the ballpark that night, got some dinner after work and retired to his hotel and checked in with his loved ones before nodding off to sleep and preparing to do it again the next day.

Another day to look around.

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