Volume 20 Issue 20 | Sept. 28 - Oct. 04, 2007

Downtown Notebook

The Yanks will have to get by without my fastball

By Ben Krull

My dream of giving up my law practice for a major league baseball career recently suffered a devastating setback. I was in an acting class pretending to fall off a ladder, when I slipped for real and tore the medial collateral ligament in my 48-year-old pitching elbow.

Most M.C.L. tears are successfully treated with physical therapy. But for aspiring pitchers the injury is catastrophic — unless the ligament is replaced through so-called Tommy John surgery.

Even with surgery, the odds would be against my making it to the big leagues. My entire pitching experience consists of throwing a tennis ball against a pillow that is propped up against a chair in my bedroom. I have developed a fastball, curveball and hard-breaking slider.

I also play other sports. I toss a Styrofoam football to various objects in my apartment while evading imaginary tacklers, and I hit buzzer-beating layups when the basketball court in my gym is empty. After the game-winners, phantom teammates douse me with Champagne.

An arthritic left hip ended my fantasies of playing in the NBA and NFL (notwithstanding stellar touch-football and Nerf-basketball careers). My damaged hip also makes it impracticable to be a baseball position player, or even a designated hitter, as I can barely run to first base.

Pitching is another story. While throwing, most of my weight falls on my healthy leg, meaning that there is little stress on my injured hip. This allows me to fire my 45-mile-per-hour fastball without pain.

I would have to play in the American League, as National League pitchers must bat. My preference would be to play for the Yankees, but I will sign with anyone — except the Red Sox.

Age is only a minor obstacle. I exercise every day and ice my shoulder after each bedroom pitching start. With steroids I would be in awesome shape.

Besides, baseball boasts several 40-somethings: home-run king Barry Bonds (43), as well as pitching greats Roger Clemens (44), Randy Johnson (42), Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux (both 41). My personal inspiration is the 49-year-old infielder Julio Franco.

I have considered having Tommy John surgery. But when I told my doctor about my pitching plans and asked him to recommend a surgeon, he referred me to a psychiatrist instead. And by the time I would finish post-operation rehab I would be pushing 50 — an age I had already designated to begin my career as a best-selling novelist. (Until my pratfall demonstrated the dangers of acting, a Tony-award- winning stage career was also under consideration.)

Perhaps I can make it to the majors as a manager. After years of guiding fantasy-league baseball teams, I am as least as qualified as Torre and Randolph. Becoming a batboy is also an option.

Even though I’ll never pitch again, my elbow is getting better, and my physical therapist thinks that swimming might help my hip. With any luck my backstroke will be ready for the 2008 Olympics.

Ben Krull, an attorney in Lower Manhattan’s Family Court, is a freelance writer.

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