My brother-in-law Tom Stofka was gentle and kind. He loved the outdoors, earning an advanced degree in forestry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Tom probably should have spent his life climbing trees, but somehow he wound up working for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. By the time of his untimely death, Tom was in charge of all the trees in Brooklyn and Queens. They called him “The Tree Guy.” Trees are the souls of cities, he said, and Tom made sure that his boroughs had healthy souls.

Tom was in a senior position so he carried a gold badge. “Gold speaks to gold,” he would tell us, because the badge system cut the Gordian knot of government bureaucracy. Senior staff went straight to their peers, gold to gold, no obstacles. But I believe there was a deeper metaphor embedded in that dry New York humor. Beautiful hearts find each other. Gold speaks to gold.

Tom had a fatal heart attack when he was far too young to die. The day of his funeral, I walked a tree-lined sidewalk in Queens and almost felt some peace in the company of Tom’s leafy charges. It was a shock to turn the corner and see the church. A full color guard lined the steps while bagpipers warmed up and enormous cherry pickers blocked the street. Every surface of those heavy trucks was covered with flowers and hung with banners that said, “We love you, Tom.” Hundreds came to honor him because Tom was beloved. Gold speaks to gold, you know, and Tom saw gold in everyone he met.

I don’t think the tweets of ding-dongs like Josh Hader, Sean Newcomb, or Trea Turner would have surprised him. Working within the politics of NYC, he contended with mortal sin on a daily basis. But I think he would have been interested in the question of forgiveness because he thought about it a lot. He was fond of a line from one of Dr. King’s sermons: “He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” King continued:

Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt.

In other words, Sean Doolittle. In response to the torrent of nauseous revelations, Doolittle enacted what King preached. He spoke out with love. He did it with seriousness of purpose. He held his juniors accountable. He schooled everyone in the art of catalyzing a fresh start. He wore a T-shirt that read “Love Wins,” and then he proved it.

I want to be like that. I want to navigate a mean and dangerous world with the courage to forgive. Why does it matter? Because of Tom. Gold speaks to gold.

Ah yes, the Norwegian batter’s box. Lovely shape. Beautiful plumage.

The batter’s box is perhaps the only important boundary line in sports that athletes try to routinely eff up until the line just doesn’t exist, though I do enjoy the basketball player occasionally trying to smuggle an entire gallon of varnish on the three-point line. Batters could then simply step in and dig all the way back until they’re in the on-deck circle. Good luck trying to pitch inside then.

But somebody cares about it. Miguel Cabrera once noticed it wasn’t quite positioned correctly and made them redraw it. The Pittsburgh Pirates once forgot to draw it after a rain delay. It needs to be there! But once the chalk is drawn, then, my dudes, please mess up that chalk until the police have to identify it using its microbiological dental records.

There are, of course, extremely good solutions:

  • Grass boxes. No need to grow it out like the outfield; putter’s green-length grass should suffice. Just enough to designate the boundary. Of course you could go the other way and have, like, British Open rough/Duck Hunt-length grass, tall enough for Jose Altuve to be completely concealed. The batter’s mystery box is definitely worth exploring.
  • Permanent borders. Just take some of that home plate material and install it as the batter’s boxes. Watch that smarmy umpire have to proudly brush the entire thing. Of course it would require someone looking up how they install home plates. I assumed those just appear in nature and the stadium is built around it.
  • Any batter who strikes out has to rechalk their batter’s box. Congratulations, we just solved two problems.
  • Cady Herron the whole thing. The limits don’t exist. Bat where you want. It doesn’t matter in the ninth inning, and according to advanced metrics a hit in the ninth is just as valuable as a hit in the first, so just do away with the borders and stand where you want, so long as you don’t stand on the plate; be careful with them, there are only 30 left in the entire North America.

(Sing to the tune of Ruth Robert‘s and Bill Katz’s “Meet the Mets”)

Verse 3:

Meet the Mets,

Greet the Mets,

Come on down and beat the Mets.

Bring your bookie,

Ride the strife,

Never made a surer bet in your life.

If deGrom is in we’ll win for a while; but in late innings we’ll blow it in style!

East Side, West Side

no one’s really coming down,

To watch them F-A-I-L fail

In New York town.

Oh the Wilpons got some money from their insurance scam.

Where did it go? Not to the Mets!

Oh they’re making their excuses about keeping it in the fam, but

Where did it go? Not to the Mets.

All the fans are true to the orange and blue,

But still, a payroll would be nice,

A bigger pot than Seattle

Might just suffice.

Give ‘em a yell!

Give ‘em a hand!

Try not to look while they’re getting tanned…

Verse 4:

… Come on and meet the Mets,

Greet the Mets,

There’s still more time to beat the Mets.

There’s no Dark Knight to save us at all;

instead of Familia, a bag of baseballs.

They’ve always wrought existential pain; but this current season makes past ones look tame!

East side

West side

No one’s really coming down,

To see them F-A-I-L Fail

In New York town.

They were in the World Series back in 2015.

Who won the year? It wasn’t the Mets!

But in three years their failure’s gotten much more obscene.

Who’ll win this year? Still not the Mets!

All the fans are true to the orange and blue,

So hurry up and force a sale

Commissioner, we beg of you,

It’s time to bail.

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