The write stuff?: A News-Post sports reporter set out to embarrass himself at the Frederick Atlantic League team's open tryout. But he let himself down.

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Apr. 24—My baseball tryout on Saturday did not go according to plan.

When I was first informed two months ago that the new Frederick Atlantic League team would be conducting open tryouts, I immediately knew I had to do it.

It would be perfect, I thought: a washed-up mediocre high school baseball player tries to live out his furthest-fetched childhood fantasy after not playing in five years. Those hours I spent daydreaming about grinding through the minors playing my favorite sport before one day stepping into a major league clubhouse could all come to fruition right there. It's something straight out of a Matt Christopher novel.

Of course, I also wanted to do this story because my inevitable failure would be hilarious (and draw many clicks to this publication's website). My editors enthusiastically responded to this idea when I pitched it, even comparing me to legendary sports writer George Plimpton, before asking the same question: What happens if I make the team?

To which I replied: "I haven't even thought about that."

Still, I set out to Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium on Saturday to make my dreams come true, my failures viral and maybe switch careers. But first, I had to train.

The first lump — literally — came in a batting practice session six days before the tryout. I threw out my lower back after 50 swings, barely being able to walk as some of the worst pain in my life shot through my body.

I'm only 23 years old, but at that moment, I felt at least three times that age.

Wonderful start.

Fortunately, that healed with a few days of rest and stretching, and I did some more light practice with my father in the two days leading up to the tryout. On Saturday, I took the field with a preventative lidocaine patch on my back and ibuprofen in my system.

I trotted out in gray baseball pants with a red pinstripe, a plain red workout shirt and a Nationals hat with sunglasses perched upside-down on my brim to look like I really belonged. And I did — all but one of the 28 people at this tryout wore a variant of that outfit.

We quickly split into position players and pitchers. I went with the former, deciding to try out at first base and not blow out my arm after abandoning my pitching dreams more than 1,800 days ago.

After a 15-minute warmup, we went to the right field corner for the 60-yard dash. There, I met my first folly.

As I was running to join the group, a gust of wind knocked my hat and sunglasses off in the middle of the field for everyone to see. Our photographer saw it too, leading to much ribbing.

Things quickly improved from there. We got two tries at the dash, and I moved down the warning track with alarming speed, at least for me. I first ran an 8.47, then lowered it to 8.31, prompting kudos from Frederick hitting coach Aharon Eggleston, who was keeping time.

Encouraged, I set out to show off my strongest attribute and hit.

I knew my talent was going to fall somewhere between the best and worst batters. I could consistently get balls out of the infield on sharp line drives, but I would not be mashing homers that cleared the high wall and landed in the parking lot beyond the stadium's perimeter (yes, there were three of those by my fellow participants).

When I stepped in for my first of five rounds, I dropped two strong bunts — my high school coach at Montgomery Blair, Eric Zolkiewicz, once called me the best bunter in Maryland, and I still take that title very seriously — before swinging away. I was surprised at how slow the machine was throwing, and it took until the fourth round to get completely comfortable and make consistently strong contact.

There was only one time I completely whiffed in that sequence, as I flailed over top of the ball and fell to one knee, grimacing at my incompetence. I swore the machine threw a change-up on purpose just to make me look like a fool.

Thankfully, I recovered. In the last round, I barreled four of the five balls to the right-center field gap just like old times.

When I wasn't at the plate, I shagged flies with and chatted up my potential future teammates, all while dodging balls whizzing five feet over our head and thunking the outfield wall behind us.

One was like me, a former high school baseball player who hadn't played in a few years but wanted to head out and see what skills he still had. Another was a father-in-law of a player already on the team, just there to have fun. And a third was a pitcher recently released by the Colorado Rockies organization looking for a second chance in pro ball.

It was a nice range from casual to competitive, from a reporter to a real pro ballplayer. And given my nonexistent expectations of impressing the coaches, I felt oddly relaxed. In a way, it was more chill than any of my high school tryouts.

Maybe that's why I did surprisingly well at the fielding drills, historically the weakest aspect of my game. I cleanly scooped all five grounders hit my way at first base, even if my throws across the diamond were a bit erratic.

And that was it. The end felt a bit anticlimactic, especially with everyone rushing to beat the oncoming storms.

Manager Mark Minicozzi thanked us and said they would be reaching out in the next few days to let us know if we made the team or are next in line. I've not yet heard from the team — I think I know the answer, since I am still here writing this column.

While the rest of the position players trickled out, the pitchers threw their bullpen sessions. Out of curiosity, I stayed behind to see how hard they threw compared to my mid-70s-at-best noodle arm.

The first glance I got at a radar gun: 92 mph. The next, 94. Then, 95. It was probably a smart choice by me to never step on the mound.

But wasn't that the point of this whole exercise? Didn't I want to fail and make fun of myself in the process?

That was the original plan — but I didn't give myself much material to work with. That's not a bad thing.

I'm clearly still good at the sport I gave 15 years of my life to. With a little more practice knocking off the rust, I'd be back around my high school level in no time.

I left the stadium rejuvenated, my love of the game as intact as ever. I'm actually more encouraged now to hit the batting cages or a nearby diamond every now and then.

That's what happens when things don't go according to plan.