DAY #12:  hey friends, if your reading this that means we are all still here! and that feels great to me!  so let’s get the show on the road…..I got picked up at the bus terminal by this great guy, who made me feel at home right away…. we got to the baseball school in a short ride and I found out that the school was old army barracks that were used in World WarII…. and they looked old too! but coming from the “neighborhood” it looked like a palace to me! the driver took me to my barracks and pointed out my bed. it had sheets, blanket and pillow cases piled on… so I proceeded to make the bed just as my Marine dad had taught me….no problem there. then I went to the mess hall barrack…. buffet style, so I had eggs, bacon, toast and coffee…yummy!  and for lunch, you made your own sandwich and i quickly became addicted to their tuna salad…. almost every day for 2 months, but now i am getting ahead of myself. It was now time to meet Dick Howser….. wow! he wasn’t much taller then me and I had him by at least 25 pounds…I thought to myself “this guy was the Rookie of the Year in 1960”?…. his handshake changed my first impression of him…he almost took my hand off….and the way he spoke with piercing eye contact won me over in an instant…this guy was confident, self assured and commanded respect…. he welcomed me and told me that practice would be hard but it will prepare me for what lied ahead in the ballgames we would play…. he said scouts would come by to observe us so we should give 100% at all times.I felt like I just joined the Army….. (not being in the service I had nothing to compare this to-so I imagined what the Army looked like)….  The month went by very quickly, there was about 60 guys like me from all over the U.S. who wanted to follow their dreams too.  my closest friend was Billy Schlesenger, from Cincinnati, Ohio… he had a brand new fire engine red Corvette convertible, but of course that is not why he was my best friend. he was a great guy who took me everywhere….in our free time…. I have great pictures of us in my scrapbook. some of the spoiled rich kids, didn’t like our living and eating conditions so they left the camp one by one until only about 45 of us “tough guys” were left. my month was coming to an end and I had just one nibble from a Milwaukee Braves scout…the Braves spring training camp was at West Palm Beach. he came up to me one day after a game I pitched in and said that he could set me up with a $150 a month salary and he would add a $250 bonus for me to play in the D League Braves team. (that was the lowest minor league at the time)….. so I met with Dick Howser all excited…. well to my astonishment this mild mannered guy just shook his head and said…. “did you take his offer”?  I told him not yet and he replied “thank God”….. I was speechless. he then proceeded to say “this guy had some spots to fill on the roster..he needs some bodies right now and at that offer, you would last maybe a month or two in D ball and when a better player came along you would be released and then you would be screwed”.  “screwed”? I said…”Yes, screwed”, he said. and continued to tell me that once you sign a professional contract you lose all eligibility to ever play NCAA college baseball….that means no free college education! he continued to say that I should stay at his camp one more month…. I told him I do not have any money left to stay another month…. so he then gave me the offer that saves my life….. I will put you on scholarship for the month if you work for me in your free time…. “can you type”? he said.  (I quietly thanked Brother Bernadine for making me take typing instead of getting a study period) “can i type”? I proceeded to tell him that I can type as fast as I talk….he was impressed… 
my job was to type envelopes with the name and addresses of prospective players who played in every of the 48 states..how he got this info, I had no idea…. and then he told me that while I typed up the envelopes and put his form letter on his school in it, sealed the contents, put the stamps on, I could then spend some time writing introduction letters to College Coaches all over the country….. he then gave me a printout of the names & addresses of about 100 colleges..and most importantly, he allowed me to use his name as a reference……. so I had a very busy month of March……playing ball, typing envelopes and sending letters to as many colleges as i could (I even sent letters to colleges that I didn’t know were all-black)…. I also remember going to the Braves spring training workouts and seeing this fat kid in a rubber suit running in the outfield from foul line to foul line for hours at a time…… he turned out to be Joe Torre the brother of Frank Torre, who was the first baseman of the Braves. Frank got his brother signed with the Braves….and to Joe’s credit, he took all the fat off his body…..and became a great ballplayer and had a great career and to this day he kept all the weight off, over 50 years now and he looks great ! what discipline he has. and he has a great career after he stopped playing….you can google him up if you don’t know who he is. ….the top baseball colleges (Fl. State, Florida, Arizona, Arizona State, USC, etc. etc.) were very smart. they wrote back that I should come to their school and pay for the Freshman year and if I was good enough, they would give me a scholarship. the only Head Coach who sent me, what I thought was a good offer, was Bob Daughton, from Jacksonville, University, located in Jacksonville, Fla…. the first city over the Georgia border, near the Atlantic Ocean.  in his letter to me (i still have the letter in my scrapbook), he said he is always on the lookout for talented players and if I could come up to Jacksonville and pitch in an exhibition game, if I did ok, he would give me a scholarship to J.U.   ….. wow!…..my dream was still alive…..so the date was set for the end of Dick Howser’s Florida Baseball School.  …my new life as a college student was about to begin….. if I could pass the tryout game. one of my baseball school friends who lived in NYC, drove me from West Palm to Jax. for my tryout… we stayed in a cheap motel until the next day of the tryout……. now my story really heats up. wait til you hear where this tryout would be! you wouldn’t guess it in a million years……. so stay tuned to DAY #13……

Read the next post Taking Stock Day 13.