Tracie James of “Once in a Lifetime Designs” is my new friend. I invited Tracie to come into our dental office and help my team and I make difficult decisions about what artwork should adorn our newly repainted walls. Perhaps Tracie’s most daring task was to sort through our pre-existing art to determine which pieces were worthy of re-hanging and which were destined for the junk pile.
There came an uncomfortable point at the completion of Tracie’s work where I felt compelled to play my trump card. As the owner of the business, I insisted that Tracie allow me to pull one of the over-looked pieces of art back from the discard pile. It was with a warm and emotion-packed plea that I explained to Tracie that “Kaline Catches Up” was not just any ordinary baseball print. “Kaline Catches Up” depicts Al Kaline, my childhood hero, racing back over his shoulder to make still another spell-binding, game-saving catch. Roaming the right field lawn at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium he was the finest the American League had to offer throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. I explained to Tracie that it was only after I had given up on my dream to take over for Al Kaline in a Detroit Tiger uniform that I turned to dentistry as a clear 2nd choice.
As good fortune would have it, Tracie is a sucker for a tear-jerking story. She quickly scouted out the ideal place for “Kaline Catches Up” to return to the wall where my patients and I can admire his mastery every single day.
Things were not good in the state of Michigan when I graduated from dental school in 1983. The Arab oil embargo had changed America’s automotive landscape forever. Toyotas and Hondas were selling like hotcakes and Detroit could barely give a Ford or Chevy away. Sadly, Michigan’s number one export had become people!
When my wife and I sat down to consider options outside of the state of Michigan, potential sites where we could go and plant a new dental seed with realistic hope that it might flourish, we looked at cities that offered two things, a strong stable economy and a Major League Baseball team.
The first place we visited was Cincinnati. My Aunt Nancy lived in Cincinnati and I had always enjoyed my visits here. I contacted the people at Patterson Dental and asked if they might show us around the city at prospective communities that might support a new dentist. The second place we visited was the new Landen Square Shopping Center. Lynn and I knew we had found our new home.
Two short years after we arrived we were at Riverfront Stadium on the night of September 11, 1985 when Pete Rose got hit #4192 to surpass Ty Cobb. Five years later we watched in amazement as Eric Davis, Paul O’Neill, Chris Sabo, Jose Rijo and the Nasty Boys led our hometown Reds to a four-game World Series sweep of the favored Oakland A’s. We experienced the exhilaration of Ken Griffey Jr.’s arrival from the Seattle Mariners. We celebrated Adam Dunn’s tape measure homeruns. There’s something uniquely American about baseball and I love it.
It is Opening Day in Cincinnati as I write this and our Reds have dropped one to those dastardly Phillies. But the important thing is that baseball is back for another season. Somewhere in our town a kid went home today from Great American Ballpark and taped a brand new poster of Joey Votto to his bedroom closet door. Win or lose, every childhood needs a hero!