The third-base coach waved me home.

Sorry I’ve been so quiet; I’m nearing the end of a 10-day road trip. I’ll post a full report when I get home, but in the meantime, I’m contemplating the strange and graceful way a figure from my childhood keeps sending my thought into familiar places with new eyes.

Last summer, I spent three days watching Ryne Sandberg manage the Iowa Cubs in a series against the OKC RedHawks. I got back to Tulsa to find that most of my friends and colleagues were unfamiliar with my childhood hero.

I thought, This would never happen in Southern Illinois, and three days later, I was sitting in a dugout at Diamond Three in Herrin, reading a W.P. Kinsella novel and watching a thunderstorm roll in while I made my peace with my hometown.

At the Triple-A level, the manager coaches third base. Last summer, my favorite third-base coach waved me home.

This summer, Ryno is managing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, Pa., so Ron and I used that as an excuse to head east on the Lincoln Highway. Along the way, I discovered that it might be possible for me to survive somewhere besides Route 66: I fell in love with the farmland of Iowa; the vibrant energy of Chicago; the charming downtowns of Goshen, Ind., and Van Wert, Ohio; the giant teapot in Chester, W. Va.; the winding mountain roads of rural Pennsylvania; and the ethnic neighborhoods and skinny townhouses with old men killing time on their front stoops in the narrow side streets of Allentown.

Everywhere we went, I mumbled, “I could teach here,” until this afternoon, it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t want to live in any of the places I’ve visited; I just want to gather up what makes me happy about those places and bring it back to Tulsa, the way I gather up little souvenirs and glue them all over my dashboard. That love-the-one-you’re-with ethos that drove me to paint pictures on cabinet doors and turn my ordinary Honda into a unique artcar suddenly spilled over, and it clicked for me: Tulsa does not understand its own potential. Forget the Glenn Pool. We are sitting on a much larger reserve of a much more powerful resource: our own diversity and creativity.

After tonight’s game, we’re heading back to Tulsa, and I am bringing a boatload of shiny objects to glue on my town’s metaphorical dashboard. From here on in, I am indulging all of my artistic impulses, and I am encouraging others to do the same, even — and maybe especially — if those impulses involve public acts of eccentricity, because it is high time we tapped this giant pool of creativity we’ve been sitting on all these years.

Once again, the third-base coach is waving me home.

Stay tuned. I feel a massive, contagious creative outburst coming on.


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