Most folks would agree that, for hilarious or worse, I have never lost my youthful spirit. Or my willingness to jump without a net and see what happens. I’ve been asked by several people where the name for this blog, “He Just Wants to Run the Bases,” comes from. Like most monikers, it came about by accident in the moment and only later became a catchall for my life’s adventures.
Here’s what happened:
At the end of summer 2000 I was fresh out of college, living in the
section of Echo Park Los Angeles for $300 a
month and working part-time in nearby Monrovia
for one of McGraw-Hill’s construction publications. (The “dream” had come true.) Not even 22 at the time, I was barely making
ends meet and hoped that this will all a stopover on my way to becoming a great
film director. (This pattern of barely
living above being broke has continued to dog me the past 13 years.)
I was also pretty big into baseball back then, having lived with “Vaughan,” who, like me, was a relocated New Jerseyan whom I’d known since middle school. He brought west his love of the Mets and of the game in general. In the previous year we’d attended a few Dodger games and caught many more on TV.
A year earlier, his best friend from middle school, “Swood,” came out to earn his master’s degree in chemical engineering from Caltech. Swood is without a doubt the funniest person I have ever known. Literally everything that comes out of his mouth in that dry, self-assured voice is laugh-worthy. He’s also probably the smartest fellow who’s ever crossed my path and has done quite well for himself in the petroleum-refining sector. Nearly seven feet tall, he’s also athletic, pleasant and the good kind of nerdy. Like
he also knows his sports.
Did I mention he was funny? And he’s fast! While playing the original Smash Bros. video game at our Echo Park apartment, the character Pikachu—a short, chubby, yellowish rodent alien creature—for whatever reason, constantly screams its own name whenever you make it attack your opponents in that high-pitched, accented tone.
Pikachu! Pikachu! Pikachu!
Swood, perhaps as a way of throwing off his fellow gamers, in response to the character’s constant name-saying, called out “Fecal juice!” It didn’t really sound like that’s what Pikachu was saying, but it did get a laugh and most certainly distracted the rest of us in the game.
Advantage seen and taken. Laughs were had by all. And, of course, it became a “thing” to be dropped into conversations at inappropriate moments—typically by myself.
So one weekend in late summer Swood and I decided to catch a Sunday afternoon Angels game down in nearby
—behind the “Orange Curtain”
as is a local SoCal-ism. Orange
Whom the Angels played and who won has been lost in time, but what happened afterwards is unforgettable.
During the game-closing announcements, the P.A. said that it was “Kids Run the Bases Night” and anyone “12 and under” was welcome to line up outside the home plate entrance for a chance to round the diamond, high-fivin’ their favorite mascots along the way.
Swood and I exchanged one of those should-we-or-shouldn’t-we-but-we-already-know-we-are-going-to glances.
It was on.
And so we dutifully lined up with hordes of OC habitués of various shades of whiteness in the queue outside the stadium. At first Swood and I were basically like, “Are we really staying to see if this works?” but as the line edged ever closer into the park, the time to turn back shrank and shrank.
Then we were inside the park, descending through the box seats towards the field itself. Ankle-biters screamed about us while their rich parents pretended to care. When it was their turn, the guardian adults ran the 270 feet from first base around to the home plate in stride with their kids.
Once on the field, Swood pulled out his digital camera (a rarity at the time) and said he would stand off along the first base line in order to capture the moment for all eternity.
I turned my baseball cap backwards. I guess I thought it would make me seem “younger” or something.
Just before the start line, a small kid didn’t seem like he was really ready to do this, so I gently asked if perhaps he might like to run together. (Admittedly, this was done not out of selflessness at all but rather to give me a front for being there amongst children in the first place.) Behind me, his mother seemed to take a particular dislike to this notion; I have no idea why.
The kid then took off running towards second base. Giving him a bit of a head start, I then leapt forward.
Here goes nothing.
“Hey, wait!” I heard behind me, but like hell was I stopping.
I hooted and skipped my way around the diamond like a five-year-old on an exaggerated sugar rush, high-fiving the San Diego Padre, the St. Louis Cardinal and other besotted human mannequins. I made a full show of slamming down with both feet at home plate. Swood was standing there to meet me, his face a mixture of bemusement and horror, waving me quickly away.
“Let’s go. Let’s go,” he breathed.
We briskly made our way towards the exit behind the parade of satisfied kids and mollified parents who could now go home and get their drink on.
“I got some good ones,” Swood said, tapping the camera.
“What happened?” I asked.
(Here follows, more or less word for word, what Swood told me upon recent re-inquiry.)
“I told some sympathetic lady who was working [by the runners’ starting point] that you just wanted to run the bases. Then when you just took off the dude working the plate kind of questioned what you were doing there and starting running after you. Then the lady whom I had just spoken to basically repeated to this dude, ‘He just wants to run the bases.’ At that point the dude essentially just tossed up his hands and let you go.”
In the best of Swood’s photos, you can see me about four feet off the plate and the dude in a red shirt looking off towards his right while motioning towards me in a WTF gesture. (Unfortunately, as this was now over a dozen years ago, the photos are effectively buried somewhere in Swood’s home, but he has said he will do his best to unearth them. As soon as that happens, you’ll see them! I promise it’s worth the wait.)
Walking our way back to my blue ’93 Toyota Paseo, Swood and I discussed what quick stories we’d have hatched had I been “caught.” Swood was basically just going to say, “C’mon, it’s his birthday tomorrow and I told him he could run the bases. It would make his whole year.” My plan had been to basically act like a screaming, retarded child and whimper and holler “SWOOD, YOU TOLD ME I COULD
BASES!!!!!!!” and scream and pout and jump up and down and throw tantrums until
the staff realized it was better to just shoo us off.
We laughed about it the entire drive back to
Pasadena. In the grand scheme of things to ever “get
away with,” this was fairly pedestrian, but for us, it made for a damn good
And unbeknownst to us at the time, the more people we told and the more the legend grew, the phrase “He just wants to run the bases” entered our lexicon and became a moniker for EFA’s ongoing life story. My friend Carol soon said that the first of my autobiographies should be entitled He Just Wants to Run the Bases, a collection of essays the cover for which would feature me standing on home plate at Angels Stadium, staring longingly to the center field wall.
Towards...fame? Infamy? Sexual conquest (at that time in my life, sex period would have done nicely)? Fortune and glory?
How about just staring towards today,
March 11, 2013, twelve a half years later, when
the story behind the moniker was at last put down in writing. I yet have no books published, but the
stories are beginning to unfold far easier than I might have dared dream back
in 2000, and I begin to relate them with my friends. I have no real audience yet, but I’m a writer
and to parrot the same, writer’s write.
So I write what I know and where I have been. This was simply one story from my life’s trajectory
up till now.
I have so much more to tell, and I hope you’ll join me.
I just want to run the bases.