Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hope springs eternal

Spring training has started.

I wandered over to Camelback, Arizona to see the new state-of-the-art complex shared by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox.

Just watching practice in the warm sun is enough to make all in the world seem right.

So I'm sitting there 5 rows up about halfway down the third base line all by myself. Not many folks around. And a stranger comes and sits down next to me.

Tall, lanky, in-shape guy. Requisite sunglasses and a Sox hat. Looks sorta familiar. A retired shortstop I wonder? Must be a scout.

"Morning", he says.

"Perfect day to be out of the office and in the sun", I replied.

"Man, you got that right. I just needed some air", he said. He breathed in deep and let out a long sigh. Saw him visibly relax as he exhaled.

"You seem kinda stressed."

"You might say that. Got alot on my mind and my plate right at the moment. That's why I needed to escape out here."

"Where's home?"

"Well, I guess Chicago is home. At the moment, I'm in D.C."

"You look really familiar. Are you with the Nationals?"

He smiled big. Pulled the sunglasses down so he could peek over the top.

"Holy smokes. Mr. Pres .....?"

"Sssshhhhhhhhh. Keep it down."

"What an honor, sir", I whispered.

"Look. Got to cool it with that kind of talk. I just need to be a regular guy for a couple of hours. What's your name?"

"Just call me A.B."

"Then, just call me Big O."

"So, how do you feel about the Sox this year?"

"Hated to lose Crede. But, feel good about the depth. If the pitching stays healthy, we'll be there in October. Then we'll have to deal with the friggin' Yankees."

"I'm a Braves fan myself. Our two organizations are alot alike. Mix of vets and young guns. Gotta love Bobby Cox and Ozzie. Who wouldn't want to play for them?"

"Agree. Wish they were in Congress. They know how to lead people and how to win."

"Thought you didn't want to talk biz."

"My bad."

"So, what's your biggest worry right now?"

"Hard to say. The economy, Iraq and Afghanistan, getting the girls settled, trying not to let my folks over manage me."

"Well, here's some advice that's worth what you paid for it. Write down your biggest worries on a sheet of paper. Look at the list in six weeks or six months. Bet you'll laugh at the list because they will have disappeared, but you'll have a whole new list."

"Man, I hope you're right. What are you worried about?"

"Much the same. I would put Iraq at the top of the list because I have a vested interest. My son was KIA there 15 months ago."

"I am so sorry. I can't imagine the pain."

"No, you can't. And I hope you never experience it. But unfortunately, you will in a way because all those good men and women in the military are under your command."

"Yep. Already had to write several letters to families. My least favorite part of the gig."

"So, what do really think about Iraq?"

"We were fools to go in. We were fools to so poorly plan it. General Petraeus saved our butts. The American people want us out of there."

"Don't disagree with you at all. But, we are there. We broke it, so now we own it. I know you want to get out. But is that the real objective?"

"Yes, my promise to the American people was to get us out."

"But, what is our objective for Iraq?"

"The Iraquis have to take care of themselves. We have done our part."

"What if it disintegrates into civil war. What if Iran gets more aggressive and starts to unify with the Shias to take over?"

"We're thinking about all that. Lot's of different points of view. You got any big ideas?"

"Reinvent Tito."

"What?"

"Look at the history of Tito and Yugoslavia. He put together I think 8 different country states with different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds and made it work. They weren't aggressive toward their neighbors. They resisted the Soviet Union. He educated his people. He put down insurrections. Yugoslavia was not a problem from 1945 until 1980 while he ruled the place."

"A benevolent dictator. . ."

"Yep. Maybe Ozzie would be a good choice."

"Oh, he's too hot-headed. He would find some way to piss off the whole Middle East."

"You know what I mean. Somebody smart, tough, will run it his way, but will have his people's back."

"Kinda like that. Let me talk to my folks. Yikes, I gotta run."

"Go get 'em, Big O. Hope to see the Sox and the Braves playing in October."

And with that, he disappeared. I followed him just long enough to see him light up a Marlboro under the stands before he got into the black Suburban.

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