by Terry Hargrove
Monday is the 149th day of the school year, leaving me with 31 days of work before the long, cold night of unemployment settles in. My wife and I spent much of last month looking at other possible teaching destinations. We’d whittled our list down to two, one in Mississippi and the other in Wyoming. Then the tornado came, and the list went to one. Go cowboys. I’m happy about the prospect of living on Wyoming. Really, I am. Stop laughing. It’s a great state.
But tonight, I’m struggling again. What I need is inspiration. I have to find someone who has overcome hardship on a grand scale, who has, through his own effort, fought back through adversity and risen, yeah, risen brother, to new heights. Someone who has been so far down that he would have to stretch his neck to see the bottom magma chambers in an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano. Someone like…someone like…
Dan Uggla. Amen.
For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, let me explain. Dan Uggla is a power- hitting second baseman for the Florida Marlins. Two years ago, Dan had a hellish night on the grandest stage. In the 2008 All-Star game, he committed three errors ( a record) and struck out three times before grounding into a double play to end the 10th inning. They also lost the game. But there is something else about Dan that even the most mote-magnifying fan doesn’t know.
I was his eighth grade reading teacher.
That is, I think I was. You see, I was going through a divorce around the time Dan was in the eighth grade, and I really have no memory of him. One of the sad ironies of teaching is that you easily forget the good students, but always remember the bad ones. So I am left to assume that Dan was a good student. I should ask him about that, but now that he’s a major league all-star, how can I get in touch with him? I mean, without asking for a couple of free tickets?
I’m missing the point. I don’t need to get in touch with him. I only need to know that Dan has bounced back from the night that he wishes everybody would forget. You know, the night I just brought up. And he has! After 18 games this year, Dan has a solid .333 batting average, a slugging percentage of .594, and he leads the team in homeruns with 4. Dan has found his way back, and so can I.
So for the rest of this year, I intend to report weekly on Dan’s progress. As Dan Uggla thrives, so shall I. I hope. Yes, when I stand back and look at all this, I know it sounds kind of creepy, but I’m going to have lots of free time this summer, so why not pick a player who was (maybe) a former student and become his greatest fan? I don’t really understand baseball, and I have no idea what a slugging percentage is, but what does that matter?
After a couple of years in Wyoming, I should have it all figured out.