Catch with a Stranger: Letting Go of the Familiar

Most would assume I’m pretty adventurous considering my current lifestyle—traveling cross-country to perform and write music. But I also enjoy my time in familiar places with familiar people. It helps me let my guard down. Despite my tendency to avoid unfamiliar experiences, I’m learning that I just need to give in to what opportunities are thrown at me as I travel. And I’m a better person for it. 

I played at The Empty Glass in Charleston, WV on May 17th with the talented blues artist, Tony Harrah. While I was sitting at a table, drinking a beer, and waiting to set up, an older man named Ken, easily in his sixties, wearing black athletic braces on both knees, kaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, and holding a white plastic trash bag, asked me, “Do you play baseball?” “Not since little league when I was 7,” I replied. “Well, you can throw a ball, right?” asked Ken. “Yeah, sure,” I said, unsure of why he was asking. 

“I’ve got a ball and two gloves in this bag—everything we need. Will you play catch with me?” he proposed.

“Um, sure. I should finish this beer first, though.”

“That’s the great thing about West Virginia—it’s not like this everywhere else. If you leave your beer at the table, no one will touch it or sit in your seat. It’ll stay just the way you left it.”

I laughed—assuming we were mutually aware of how off-the-wall his request was, and of the tenuous logic behind his persuasion—only to be met with a straight and eager face. So, with a little hesitation, I must admit, I gave in. “Sure,” I said, “why not?”

I left my beer, shook his hand, and introduced myself. We walked across the street to a parking lot where Ken pulled out two fairly new baseball gloves and a ball. Three or four tosses in, back and forth, he said, “See? Isn’t that satisfying? There’s something very pleasing about the simultaneous sensation of the ball landing in your glove and the sound it makes. There’s nothing like it.” 

I realized then that this was something more profound than a game of catch. I was learning something about myself and about this white-haired stranger. We were two lives, two sums of different experiences exchanging our biographies, stories, passions, and a ball. We were taking communion from each other. It was cathartic and unexpected. I could have been sitting at a table alone, scrolling through my emails or Instagram feed, pretending to be important. But I was just a stranger to another stranger, and yet, we were two ends of a moment, incomplete without the other, offering a bit our own life—completely reliant on the other to return the favor.

PS: I almost titled this post "Catch Me Outside, How 'Bout That."