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Hollifield: Shouldering the burden of the missing fastball

Hollifield: Shouldering the burden of the missing fastball

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Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.”

And I believe it was Mark Twain who quipped, “If you chuck those apples at that fence post yonder, you’ll blow your shoulder out, nitwit.”

If he didn’t, he should have because I did and I shouldn’t have.

A bowl of apples sat uneaten on the kitchen counter until they grew a might too squishy for my taste. I suppose I could have made apple fritters or apple sauce or apple brandy – there are tutorials on the internet for just about anything – but instead, I took the apples, stepped off the back stoop and prepared to toss them over the fence for any critters that enjoy squishy apples.

I noticed the fence post in front of me was roughly 60 feet away. The apples were about the size of a baseball. Hmmm…

As a kid, I was pretty good baseball player. Or I thought so. I played organized ball with the names of businesses and schools across the front of the uniform from around third grade right up to 10th, when I was informed my services would no longer be needed in 11th grade.

It was suggested that perhaps I should pursue other activities in line with my abilities, such as rock collecting or standing and staring at the sky.

Instead, I got a guitar, learned three chords, started stringing words together and acquired a lifelong hobby despite a general lack of musical ability. After 40 years, I have expanded my repertoire to four chords.

But a boy bitten by the baseball bug rarely if ever fully recovers. Standing there, looking at that fence post, I thought I could go home again and retrieve that fastball I never had in the first place.

What could go wrong with a man in his mid-50s who hasn’t thrown much of anything but a fit in years hurling half a dozen apples as hard as he possibly could?

I figured I would blast a few heaters by Gary the groundhog, who lives under the shed nearby. The scouting report on Gary says he’s a contact hitter but I planned brush him back with some chin music then pitch him low and away.

“Come get some, Gary,” I said as I went into my windup and brought the heat. The apple missed the fence post by a good three feet, but I thought that might instill overconfidence in Gary and bring him out of his hole with a Louisville Slugger.

I came with the gas on the second pitch and it was closer to the post. I doubt Gary was impressed

On the third pitch, I felt a twinge in my shoulder.

“I’ll work through it,” I said. “No pain no gain.”

On the fourth pitch, I knew I had made a mistake. There was definitely something askew in my shoulder. Bad news.

I walked the last two apples over to the fence and dropped them in the ditch. I think I heard Gary snicker.

The next morning, my right shoulder ached.

“I reckon I need to go on the injured list and miss a few starts, honey.”

My manager would have none of that. There was grass to mow, a garden to till and a house foundation to paint.

The shoulder pain lingered. I consulted the internet and learned it could be anything from a rotator cuff impingement to a leftist plot of reptilian creatures to establish a new world order. That’s the internet for you.

Right now, with the grass mowed, the garden tilled and a house foundation painted, I hope to give it a rest and see what happens.

The experience did inspire me to pull out the guitar and work on a new song. It’s called “I Got Them Apple Throwin’ Shoulder Blowin’ Middle-Age Bad News Blues.”

It’s got all four chords. I dedicated it to Mark Twain.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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