“I don’t feel like retiring.”
A friendly Google search for ‘Camden’ will introduce you to a world of home invasions and counterfeit prescription drugs to beat the band. And that band is probably made up of serial killers who only sing songs about converting daycare centers into adult bookstores.
But there’s one 36-year-old man in New Jersey who isn’t doing something sleazy a basement most of the time. His name is Pedro Feliz, and you know exactly who he is.
I don’t think Pedro was particularly caught off guard when his phone remained silent this off season.
Your basic almost-40 baseball player brings certain things to the table: a bat that still moves with adequate speed. An arm that can get three outs in a row. Strength that can get a ball across a diamond. And throughout all of it, he’s got to ooze that ever-present intangible, “clubhouse presence.”
In fact, some guys are living on the fumes of their career with clubhouse presence alone. Some don’t even have that because they saved the manager’s daughter from a fire or hit a home run once that he remembers fondly. But Pedro doesn’t have a lot of those things. For a middle-aged infielder, he is surprisingly ooze-free.
So what the hell is a guy with a wife, three kids, and millions of dollars doing in Camden? Waiting to become a statistic? Possibly. But instead of a violent crime, the stats could be an RBI or an OPS. But it is Pedro Feliz we’re talking about, so its probably like a fielding percentage or something.
Pedro wandered into Philly to fill the role Abraham Nunez wasn’t doing well enough, knocked in the winning run of a World Series, and then he left. But sometimes we don’t realize that when people exit the Philadelphia sportscape, they don’t just stop existing. Their lives continue moving forward with the passage of time, even if we aren’t constantly harping on their mistakes or overzealously celebrating their minor accomplishments.
Of course, I have no idea what it’s like to go through life without the constant chorus of raucous applause. But Pedro might, given that he was eventually replaced by a guy who currently has the fifth highest batting average in the NL.
Now, he’s banished to the other side of the river, his only glimpses of Philadelphia coming from the on deck circle of the Camden Riversharks. The world may have gotten a lot smaller since he watched the streets of Philly burn, but he’s out there because he’s too infected with baseball to do anything else.
He’s never going to be a legend, just a guy who gets mentioned way less than Ryan, Chase, and Jimmy in the World Series retrospectives of the current era. But he’ll always have his memories. Even if they’re being recalled from a city of corrupt mayors and a population crushed below the poverty line.
Given the current lineup, though, he’d fit right in.