Oakland A’s pitcher, Ben Sheets has been the target of harsh criticism in more than a few of my earlier posts. No other player on the Oakland 2010 roster has infuriated me so much.
Then on a cool and rainy Sunday night in Chicago, I came face-to-face with Oakland A’s Pitcher, Ben Sheets!
I was at the end of a very long and tiring day. What started out as a fun day at AT&T Park in San Francisco ended with the sting of a 3-game sweep at hands of the cross town rivals. It was now long past midnight and there I was waiting impatiently in baggage claim in Chicago’s O’Hare’. The airport had the emptiness of the Oakland Coliseum… during a mid-week series with the Kansas City Royals.
The flight from SFO was just under four hours, but seemed like 40. Two hours into the air, I became as restless as Raj Davis standing on first base. I wanted to get off the plane and walk the rest of the way. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t sleep, I was not having a good night.
Watching the luggage rumbling around on the carousel was sure making me dizzy. I was praying that our bags made the trip too. The husband had left me in charge of our carry-on’s,while he went off to make a pit stop.
To prevent myself from getting cross-eyed, I turned around to watch the remaining passengers make their way slowly down the stairs. And that’s when I spotted him! I recognized the hair and the familiar gait. He looked so much taller on TV though, but there was no doubt in my mind who he was.
As he got closer to where I stood, I pointed at him and yelled, “Hey, you’re Ben Sheets!” With his Louisiana drawl and a big wide grin, he replied, “Yes. That’s me!”
After the lackluster performance in the Saturday game in San Francisco, I began putting ideas together for yet another critical post directed at Ben Sheets. Never got around to writing a word before the trip.
My big moment was here. My chance to meet Ben Sheets and the opportunity to tell him his pitching stinks! How I doubted his ability to pitch well in 2010 and that he was overpaid.
And so there I was at baggage claim, long past midnight… standing face-to-face with Ben Sheets! A thousand things popping into my mind.
Without missing a beat, I started rambling about how the husband and I are A’s fans on a road trip to Wrigley Field and St. Louis. Ben said it wasn’t hard to miss the Husband’s familiar A’s hat as we took our seats. We were the last to board the plane! We also told him we left the game in San Francisco and headed straight to airport.
Ben simply uttered. “Me Too!”
Then I thought, maybe, he’s not so bad after all. Imagine that. Ben Sheets and his family were on our flight, and they weren’t in First Class.
I have to admit, I was caught up in the moment. I mean, how often do you get the chance to come face-to-face with the person you criticized in your blog? I couldn’t wait!
I told him about my Blog blog and the stuff I wrote about him.
I was so busy thinking of the next thing to say, I can’t remember his response. All I know, I took it as a green light to blab some more. I smiled and uttered,
“Ben, what happened to you on the mound Saturday night?“
Again in his strong Louisiana drawl, he calmly replied, “I just didn’t pitch well, there was nothing wrong with me, it just didn’t go very well”
And just like that, no excuses, he just “manned-up.”
Not wanting to push my luck, I decided against mentioning the throwing error to First Base in the Saturday night game in San Francisco.What was he thinking?
But, there were other things I wanted to get some answers to. Firsthand. I asked about the heart-pounding, nail-biting events in the top of the Eight in the Saturday night game and again on Sunday afternoon. What it’s like pitching in the American League. Being a veteran among a bunch of young guys. I wanted answers….
Then without hesitation, Ben said “It would be nice if the A’s could get a ‘Big Bat’ to help the team contend for the AL West.”
And there I was, face-to-face with Ben Sheets and his wife, chatting as if we had known each other for years.
He teased his wife as she tried to work the Husband’s big a*** camera. She could not make it work! After some instructions and more ribbing from Ben, she managed to get a few shots. Me, Ben Sheets and the Husband! Whoa….
Ben’s wife is cool too. I talked with her about what it’s like being in Oakland and getting a chance to visit San Francisco. While just behind us, their kids were having fun playing around. They sure weren’t as tired as I was.
We chatted some more with Ben about playing in Oakland and living in the Bay Area. He talked about playing golf in Oakland on his off days, but didn’t mention his handicap! The Husband was pleasantly surprised, Ben was up to speed on East Bay current events. He mentioned a couple things that really caught us off guard.
With thoughts of the forgettable few months, Matt Holliday spent in Oakland and rumors of how he hated the place. I asked Ben if he really enjoys being with the Oakland A’s.
He said he really does. And with a measure of seriousness, he expressed his deep appreciation and respect for what Billy Beane did for him, in signing him to a one-year deal. (Yeah, I would be very happy too, if my boss signed me to a one-year $10 mil contract). Ben also remarked how tough it was as a baseball player to sit out the entire 2009 season. We also laughed about the fact that he never stops talking when he’s in the dugout.
Finally, his bag rolled off the carousel and we knew it was time to end the tête–à-tête. Ben was gracious enough to spend a few more minutes shooting the breeze. In the end, the Husband and I wished him good luck in St. Louis. (Yes, he was “given” 2 extra days off after his poor pitching performance in San Francisco.)
We told him we would see him at Wrigley on Tuesday. Ben in turn wished us good luck on our road trip.
And then he disappeared. Into the cool and rainy Chicago night, to enjoy the off-day with the family.