The Major Leagues
by Alex Call
A few months ago I asked my ten- year -old son what he wanted to be when he grew up. During the previous year I hadn’t seen him as much I would like to, due to a separation and attendant, nasty court battles, but I had been there for his baseball seasons, both spring and fall, as an assistant coach. I took him fishing most times I saw him off the field.
I don’t know what prompted my question; I suppose I was trying to let him know I cared where he was going. I miss you like crazy, kid. I’m your father; don’t forget.
His answer was perfect. “I want to be either a Major League baseball player or an ichthyologist”.
Wow, of course. When I was ten I wanted to be either a Major Leaguer or a paleontologist! I said, that’s great! Ichthyologist! Cool! He showed me a bunch of fish pictures online (he likes the really ugly, coarse fish I was never into, like Asian carp, Wells catfish, and deep water finners with Latin names). I told him about catching hard-fighting pargo in Baja.
I had the thought to say, well, son, there are only a very few Major League ballplayers, so maybe coaching would be a good way to go, but I held back. My son is a very good little baseball player with many pro mannerisms and great hands and feet. He has a deep competitive fire in him as well. Who knows? You can basically always be an ichthyologist.
By the time I was eleven, my goals had drifted from paleontology to my new passion: Rock Music. Oh, I still wanted to be a baseball player, but I could see that Tom, Dave, and Brian on my little league team were way better than I was and they weren’t as good as Mike, Rick, and Steve over in the neighboring league.
But nothing could dissuade me from going for the majors in Rock. I would do it; I had no doubt. First came The Wandering Kind (we played a frat party and a Christmas tree sale in a parking lot), then The Urthworms in High School, then The Tiny hearing Aid Company ( fits all in one ear!), and then Clover.
The early bands were the low minors, just learning how to field grounders and throw off the correct foot. Clover was AA, then AAA, and then quickly Major League. OK, we were there for a little while and weren’t starting players, but we had some good games: we got signed to a label and made two albums, did some good concerts, and even blew away Steve Miller one night. But our records were lousy and didn’t sell and we got cut and sent down by our label. Worse: we were flat-out released. No one would sign us. Wait! We’re Major Leaguers!
Clover. Ciambotti, McFee, Mitch, Huey, Sean. Good harmonies, great lead players, solid up the middle. Pitching? Maybe a little weak (me and Huey at the time), but serviceable and even good on many shows. We got signed again and went off to England and had a better look around the Bigs: tours, records, interviews, groupies, high times. Ciambotti with his Panama hat and red suspenders, Huey with his studded-leather harmonica holsters, my blue suede lace up Beatle boots. Thin Lizzy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvis Costello, London, New York, LA.
Our records didn’t sell and we got cut again. Maybe the “pitching” (my singing and songwriting) was not Major League after all. Clover broke up. I fell into deep space. McFee joined the Doobie Bros. Huey got a record deal, Ciambotti played with many artists. They were Major Leaguers. Me? Not so much.
But then I had a hit song as a writer, then another, then a few more. Clive Davis signed me to Arista Records. I bought SUV’s, built a house in Montana. Ah, I was a major leaguer after all. If I had gone to college and become a paleontologist, perhaps I would have discovered a jawbone of some unknown dinosaur in the wind blasted badlands of Alberta. Duckbillensis Callenensis. But I had stuck with my eleven- year- old’s dream and though it was very far from perfect, and though the story doesn’t end there at all, I did get my short run in the Bigs. Not enough, not as much as other guys, but enough for me to say I played in the Major Leagues: The Show. Do I have regrets about how I comported myself at times? yes. Do I wish I had a few do-overs? yes. But still, I put on the uniform and took the field.
So I won’t say to my son that his dream of being a Major League ballplayer is not worth pursuing; he has his own journey to go through. I hope he does get to the Bigs, whatever field he takes. Keep your eye on the ball, son.