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On Being an Average Person

A perpetual "5" on a scale of 1-10.


Bear in mind, in schoolyard games, I was never the dreaded last guy to be picked, like that poor schmuck Randy Stinko.  Teams would reluctantly take Randy when they had no choice and then stuck him in right field and prayed nobody hit the ball anywhere near him. And of course, placed him last in the batting line-up. Thankfully I was never that guy.  Nor was I ever that envied first pick. Everyone wanted Big Dave Mareschi, who, in addition to being tall, itself a prized virtue, could hit it out of the park every time at bat. Or Brady Hutchins and and his sidekick Robert Miletti, neither of whom had ever dropped a ball or swung and missed a pitch throughout their illustrious baseball careers at Warren Point School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.  I was always dead in the middle. Not one of the best, not one of the uncoordinated, sorry misfits. A solid, dependable, middle of the road guy. A 5 on a scale of 1-10.  I even batted fifth. Played first base.


Fear not, though, sympathetic reader; I redeemed myself shortly thereafter.  It finally dawned on me that I belonged on first base, which I actually do know how to play reasonably well, as long as you throw the ball in my general direction. I do have to invoke a little bit of prayer that I can pull off the famous first-basemen’s “scoop” of those throws that land in a short hop right in front of you, where the amateur’s tendency is to turn your head away so as not to get hit in the face by the ball when you miss the scoop and it bounces right at you and takes out your front teeth.  And I did fairly well there,  caught everything thrown at me, including one or two very unlikely and lucky scoops. 

 When it came my turn to hit, despite the fact that the pitcher couldn’t reach the plate, I managed to inch forward and connect sufficiently well that one of the scary clipboard people reassured me afterward that they were well aware that I had been given a bum deal on the pitching, but that they recognized that I had “a good swing.”

Imagine that; I have a “good swing.”

They were scoring us on a 1-10 rating system.  Everyone would get on a team, but they wanted to balance the talent across the spectrum.  I felt pretty confident as I left the field, aching in places I hadn’t noticed were part of my body in many years, that I probably scored a 5.  I wouldn't be the first, nor the last, to be picked. No Big Dave Mareschi was I, and nor was I poor, pitiful Randy Stinko.

In high school, my closest female friend, Lindy, a highly accomplished cellist even then, once wrote a poem in which she said, “To be average is a thousand thousand times worse than to be a total failure.”  She essentially wrecked my life in that one line, although at the time I was quite enthusiastic and behind her sentiment one hundred percent. The problem is, as time and life wore on, I became a 5 on the 1-10 scale, not only at softball, but also as a guitar player; a 5 on the piano; a 5 as an artist, or on the stage; an average 5 at practically everything I've ever tried. Possibly a 7 as a writer, to be generous. And I guess a 10 at being myself, but there is no other competition.  

I have been a perpetual  jack of several trades and master of none, and completely average at all of them.  It’s a little hard to bear after growing up certain that I was destined for greatness, or at the very least, to appease Lindy by being a total failure. But I'm a 5. The guy in the middle. Average. Dead center.

Oh, and I was born on August 5th.  I’ve requested the number 5 on my softball jersey.