Today was the first day of baseball’s spring training. Every Major League team played. The professionals all trotted onto dirt infields to punch gloves, swing bats, and make life a little better for those of us who are emotionally unstable enough to be called “fans.” Baseball is back.

I realize that not everyone cares about baseball, but last year, after our Atlanta Braves were decapitated by the Saint Louis Cardinals, it was like a nuclear holocaust at my house.

This pain can be traced back to my father, a lifelong Cardinals hater, who would have rolled in his grave after the upset. I will refrain from printing any unnecessary Cardinals jokes here because one or two Cardinals fans might know how to read.

Sorry. That was cheap. And I apologize. But I can’t help myself. Because I learned to love baseball during infanthood. My early days can be measured by red dirt stains and strained groin muscles. We would sweat all summer, rolling on grassy outfields, sliding into second,

stealing bites of Navy plug chew and pretending to be men.

Of course, I was no man. I was freckled, chubby, and an all-around unattractive kid. But when I was on the field, I felt like I was part of something big.

I did not grow up in an era of technology and smartphones. Mine was probably the last generation to experience an electronically quiet life. We rode bicycles to practice, gloves hanging over our handlebars. There was no internet, instead our elders fed us tales about growing up with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Ted Williams.

My father grew up during a time when the Yanks were a superpower. A time when the Dodgers finally defrocked the Bronx Bombers to become world champions. When Jackie Robinson was in the twilight of his career. Mickey Mantle was the American League’s top slugger. Hank Aaron was hitting .314. Willie Mays was unstoppable.

Why…

He’s sixty-two. He’s driving a Ford on the interstate. This is a big deal.

I know what you’re thinking: since when is driving on the interstate a big deal?

When the interstate is Atlanta 285.

Also, he hasn’t been behind the wheel in three years. Not since a botched surgery—which was when his life went downhill.

There were complications, which led to other complications, and recovery has taken time. He has a hard time moving his legs and feet, he uses a walker. It left him with crippling pain.

He became a bona fide shut-in. His only window to the outside world is his adult daughter—who lives all the way in Union City.

His lovely daughter helps him almost every day. And even though she has been pregnant, about to have her own family, she still labors without complaint.

Anyway, earlier this particular evening his daughter called. She had an announcement.

“Dad,” she said. “I had the baby.”

When he heard the news, he was so overcome he couldn’t form words.

“Dad?” came her voice on the phone. “You still there?”

No answer. He was crying.

But they weren’t happy tears, they were

of self disgust. He despised himself. He hated being lame, and he hated burdening his family.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Fathers weren’t supposed to load their daughters with caregiving responsibilities.

“Dad?” she said. “You there?”

His lips quivered, he breathed heavily. “I thought you weren’t due for two weeks,” he said.

“I wasn’t, but… Surprise.”

He choked back more tears.

“I’m sending Danny,” his daughter went on. “He’s coming to pick you up in a few minutes.”

“No!” he shouted. “Don’t bother!”

“What?” she said. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I said don’t bother!” he spat at her, “I don’t wanna come!” Then he slammed the phone.

He couldn’t explain why he was so angry.

The man sidled his walker toward his recliner…

A crowded lunch joint. Seated beside me is a man reading a newspaper. I glance at a sobering headline that reads: “Boy Scouts of America Files for Bankruptcy.” The man with the paper sighs, and folds it closed.

Meanwhile, the television above the bar rolls shocking footage of a shooting. This is followed by reporters talking about deaths due to coronavirus.

Then come pharmaceutical commercials by the dozen. After that, a legal commercial about how to sue pharmaceutical companies.

The waitress looks at the TV and says, “Hot awmighty, they never tell you anything good do they?”

She changes the channel. The TV shows a riot. She changes it again. On the television screen are two men in suits shouting at each other with spittle flying. She flips again. The news announcer says: “Two more deaths from the coronavirus, experts say you should all run for your…”

Mercifully, she turns the television off.

A man at the bar says, “Thank you.”

Another man raises a coffee mug. “‘Preciate that.”

And you get the feeling that everyone here is

about to applaud.

The mood improves considerably. Pretty soon the waitress is playing music overhead. I hear a steel guitar intro. It’s George Strait, singing about Amarillo. And color is being restored to the world. Thank you, George.

The waitress warms up my coffee and I’m feeling a lot better now. Certainly, I know the universe is full of bad things, but it’s full of good things, too. And sometimes I wish that I heard more about them.

A few nights ago, for instance, I heard about one such item. I met a man who told me about angels.

“Angels?” I asked him.

“Yes, angels,” he said.

The man was white-haired. He looked like your favorite granddaddy. He spoke with a thick Georgia accent and wore plaid.

“I was driving home late,” he began. “Crashed into a log truck.”

His wife held…

I am on a stage. I am playing guitar and doing my one-man show. The same show that critics often hail as a remarkably powerful sleep aid.

I see a redheaded man in the audience, sitting in the balcony. I almost lose track of what I’m talking about on the microphone. The redheaded man is grinning at me. He reminds me of someone I once knew. Someone from long ago.

The very first time I was ever on a stage I was six years old. My father was the reason. I don’t know why he had such a bee in his bonnet about getting me in front of people, but he was hellbent on it.

He practically begged the preacher to let me sing in front of church, even though I REALLY didn’t want to do this. My father could be relentless. Soon I was standing before everybody and their mother’s house cat singing “Precious Lord Take My Hand.”

Something I’ll never forget: Just before I took the church stage, the old

preacher introduced me by calling me a forty-year-old man trapped in a six-year-old's body.

Everyone chuckled. But I didn’t see what was so funny. I sang the best I could, but I was godawful. People applauded. My redheaded father, who was in the balcony, whistled with his fingers.

After that, I started doing some singing in public. I was shy and I hated it. But my father said the only way to get over stage fright was to simply get over it. He kept making me audition for local plays. I couldn’t understand why he found this so important. All I wanted was to go back to making mud pies in the backyard.

I got a role in one play where I had to memorize nearly a hundred lines. My mother and I worked on these lines every day after school. She’d read the script while standing at…

I have here an email written by John, from Marietta, Georgia. He writes:

“Sean, I lost my car keys and I’m late for work, I can’t find them and I’ve looked everywhere. I don’t really want to call my wife because she always knows where my keys are.”

John, this is by far the strangest letter I have ever received. But you were right to contact me. The best help I can give is this: Whatever you do, don’t call your wife.

Because if you do, she will find your keys, and she will win. And if your wife wins, she will hold it over your head for the next two million years.

And if you’re like me, this subject will be brought up when you least expect it, like when my wife introduces me at parties (“This is my husband, who couldn’t find his own keys if they were lodged in his throat.”).

Sometimes you will be in the middle of a disagreement with your wife and the subject will pop up. You’ll

probably be arguing the same way all married men argue, humbly pointing out the many sacrifices you make for the family. While you are speaking, she will interrupt to remind you about the time you lost your car keys, whereupon (poof!) you will be instantly neutered.

So how can you find your keys without the help of a qualified female? This is a tough one. Because women know everything. They can also smell aromas that average humans can’t smell.

I base this statement on the fact that many times I’ve been trapped in confined spaces with myself and have failed to smell odors coming from my sweat glands, scents my wife claims can be detected from as far away as Quebec.

My wife has a nose like a pregnant bloodhound. She is always saying, “What is that SMELL?” Then her nose starts sniffing around, trying to…

I am in a public place watching several kids play on their smartphones. They haven’t blinked in over an hour. Or moved. Someone better get these kids some urinary catheters.

I’ll admit right off the bat that when we were kids we were not half as “hip” as today’s children. These kids are smart. They have cutting-edge phones, earbuds, skinny jeans, light-up shoes, and unique body piercings. Compared to these modern children we were complete dorks.

Do you know what my uncool friends did for fun? Our mothers made us pick wild strawberries. That’s right. Strawberries. These hip kids are going to laugh us right into the nursing home one day.

Certainly, video games existed during my youth, but my people didn’t have them. And don’t get me wrong, I would have killed for a video game. But it was a pipe dream. Back then, if you had a video game console, this meant that you wore silk undies and a man named Wadsworth turned your bed down each night.

The first

time I ever saw a video game was at Michael Ray’s house. His father was an importer, his mother was a competitive horse jumper and Junior League vice president.

The video game was Pong. It was a blank television screen with a singular dot drifting from left to right between ping-pong paddles. This dot traveled about as fast as it took to complete law school. Every kid within three counties traveled hundreds of miles just to see this dot.

My father forbid me from playing video games. He once told me plainly, “Son, if you play video games your brain will melt.” And he didn’t say it like he was joking.

Looking back, I’m sure my father got a great laugh out of this, but I sincerely believed him. For years I thought that video games would cause brain matter to leak out my ears. So I never…

I was sitting here thinking about you. Which is kind of weird because I don’t know you. But I still consider us friends.

See, when I write, sometimes I envision you reading this. Whoever you are. I can almost see you sitting in your PJs, or your work clothes, or dressed in a gorilla suit.

Maybe you’re sipping your morning coffee, or hot tea, or an ice cold Ensure. Or maybe you’re stopped at a redlight, reading this on your phone, holding up miles of traffic. In which case, you’d better put your phone down because right now everyone wants to harm you.

Over the years I have written some off-the-wall things to you. I once wrote an entire column/blog/whatever-you-call-it about eyebrow hair. Another time I wrote a column where, as a joke, I quoted God. Almost everyone got the joke, but a select few didn’t. These are a select few religious people who might benefit from a little Metamucil in their diets.

But after I quoted God I got some hate mail from

these people who obviously have incredible amounts of free time because they went into lengthy detail about what was going to happen to my eternal butt. One guy told me I was going to rot in Hell for putting words into God’s mouth.

Normally this kind of thing doesn’t bug me too bad. But getting more than a few hate messages at once can really put you in the dumps. Which is what happened.

But the tides turned. A Catholic gentleman from Maine sent me a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon in the mail. There was a card attached.

It read: “I sure love you. Sincerely, God.”

Somebody I’ve never met guessed that I was having a bad week and took the time to send me the Catholic sacrament of choice, full-proof alcohol. The thing is, I don’t even like bourbon, but it made my whole…