It is generally a good idea to wear protective equipment when a child between ten and thirteen years of age throws practice pitches to you. During this stage of development, a player has sufficient strength to hurl a baseball at alarmingly high velocity with incredibly inconsistent accuracy. The correct gear can prevent the ball from injuring you, if it bounces off the ground and misses your glove.
One evening, not long ago, I choose the alternative of receiving pitches from my eleven-year-old son while wearing slacks and an oxford. As a result, I fielded an errant throw with my skull, and a black eye became the prominent feature of my face.
How I wish good advice about protective gear had been foremost in my mind that night, instead of the next morning as I was being led back for my job interview at Gleason Enterprises. This was my second interview, and I was meeting with Marshall Gleason, the company’s founder and president, to whom I would report if I got the job.
My guide stopped short of the door and said, “Good luck,” but the look on her face said something more like, “Good luck getting the job with your giant swollen eye.”
As I entered his office, Mr. Gleason was still looking down at his notes. “Mr. … Halleck,” he read from the top of my resume, “I have been looking forward to meeting you.”
Upon lifting his eyes to my face, his expression shifted from welcome to alarm, and any possibility of discussing my various accomplishments left the room.
“What in the world happened to your eye?” he asked.
“My eye? Oh, there’s not much to say there. I was helping my son practice his pitching in the backyard last night when the ball took a funny hop and caught me in the eye. Not the most pleasant experience, but it certainly is a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Gleason.”
“Like to play ball then, do you? I played as a child and was considered quite a good hitter. I believe my son is playing baseball himself this year, or so I hear. By my accounting, a grown man cannot afford to waste time on games or, shall we say, risk a black eye that might cost him a business opportunity.”
This was not a promising beginning, and I certainly did not want to talk about my injury, but his comment demanded a response, though I am sure he did not desire one.
“Actually, Mr. Gleason, I couldn’t disagree with you more. I see this bruise as a tattoo that says, “I love my son.” I sure hope he sees it that way. Maybe I should have worn a facemask to protect myself, but in any case I would do it all over again, if I had the chance. The time I have invested in the lives of my children is the most valuable commodity I possess. Rather than time lost, I believe it is time gained.”
Mr. Gleason looked away from me while he changed the subject. “This is what I like about a face-to-face meeting before a hiring. It helps both parties decide if we would work well together. Perhaps you are now thinking that our organization isn’t the best fit for a man of your tastes, Mr. Halleck?”
“Perhaps so,” I answered, “though I am sorry to say it. Thank you for your time. I know it is valuable to you, and I won’t take any more of it.”
I stood up, reached across the desk to shake his hand, and caught a glimpse of his family photos. Startled, I blurted out, “Is your son named Michael? Michael Gleason?”
“Why, yes. Do you know my son?”
“Yes, I do. I’m coaching the team he’s playing on this year. Michael is our first baseman and an excellent fielder, but he’s struggling at the plate. There’s a hitch in his swing, which I’ve asked him to work on at home. The only way to get rid of bad habits is practice, you know. He could benefit from the advice of a good hitter.”
“I suppose he could. Well, I’ll keep that in mind,” he said as he shook my hand. “Have a good day, Mr. Halleck.”
“Thank you. The same to you.”
I left not knowing what would come of that meeting, but I will look for signs of improvement in Michael’s swing and pray that my lost opportunity will become time gained for him—and his father.
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