Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Magic Mud

I find when I’m short on real-life material I tend to turn to the news media for entertainment. Not the entertainment industry, mind you, the news media.

Today a headline on is “Harvesting Baseball’s Magic Mud” followed by a story on a gentleman who sells dried mud to, you guessed it: the baseball industry. Never a group known for burning up the IQ charts, this special mud is apparently the one key ingredient to pitchers’ fingers finding purchase on the otherwise-slick finish of a new baseball; less of a problem, I suspect, before the unique ridges in their fingertips were embossed with dollar signs.

According to CNN the gentleman in question, one “Jim Bintliff”, mines this secret mud from whats been described as "a fishing hole" that lies on the banks of the Delaware River. Also perhaps not the shiniest penny on the sidewalk, clever Jim followed with his sweeping claim "Nobody knows this is where I get the magic mud.”

Well, Jim, my magic computer research indicates it comes from the chewed-up portion of the Delaware river nearest your house with a Yosemite Sam lawn-chair in it. I have a heavily-rubbed $50 bill that says I can Mapquest “Jim Bintliff”, follow the trail of empty Miller High Life cans down to the river behind his house, and before you can say “Buster Don’t Spit On That” we’re knee-deep in rich man’s mud.

CNN, in its infinite wisdom goes on to say that out of nine brothers and sisters, Bintliff was the one picked to carry on the family business.

“Picked.” Oh man.

I assume his parents chose him for this esteemed role, he could have gone to college, but they picked him for something magical. To his credit he’s made the most of it. I can see it now - “Boy, you’re going to spend the rest of your life wading in the mud out back. Now go make us proud!”

Some people have all the luck. I had to graduate from a 4-year institution of higher leaning AND get a paying job before my parents considered their work complete.

Perhaps Chris Van Zant, Assistant Manager for the Braves, put it best:

"It seems kind of funny," he said. "When you see fans fighting for a souvenir ball that goes into the stands, you're like, 'Well, that ball has my spit on it.' There's a little kid somewhere with a baseball on his nightstand and I spit on that ball."

Whew. Thats heady stuff Chris. Deep. Real' deep.

According to CNN, Chris Van Zant earns part of his paycheck with his spit – he’s the team's only “baseball rubber.” Before each game, he mixes his special spit with Jim's special mud and rubs the gloss off of each new ball. In his 10 years with the club, Van Zant estimates that over 40,000 baseballs passed through his (spittle-bathed) hands.

Son, you’ve rubbed a lot of balls.

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