One Pack. No Turning Back.
Number of miles driven today: 84
Total miles driven on road trip: 3,485
Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Starbucks.
Number of days on trip won by Starbucks: 16 out of 16
Cheapest gas I saw today: $2.30
Number of states visited overall: 6
Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 4 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas)
Number of blue states visited overall: 2 (California, New Mexico)
Number of cards Jaime Cocanower's team won in our epic 4th of July Cards Against Humanity Battle: 1
Amount of money enclosed in Jaime Cocanower's fan mail: $2
A lot of people ask me how I've managed to track down the players in the wax pack. It hasn't been easy, and the story for each player is different. Sometimes, it's as simple as a public records search for phone number. Other times, it's required a bit more digging.
Jaime Cocanower, card #6 in the pack (and perhaps the most obscure player), presented a real challenge. My usual methods came up short. But knowing his wife's name (Gini) from old Milwaukee Brewers media guides, I did some Googling and found an e-mail address for her at a high school in Bentonville, Arkansas. Using my Berkeley e-mail address to skirt the spam filters, I sent her a note explaining the project and asking if she could put me in touch with Jaime. I was pleasantly surprised when she responded, forwarding my note to her husband and adding this very fitting and funny reply: "Jaime, you should write back to this guy. He seems nice, albeit with stalker tendencies."
From there, I received a thoughtful and detailed e-mail from Jaime that even addressed me as "Dr. Balukjian," something I only get called on airplane tickets. I told him when I was planning to visit northwest Arkansas on the trip, and we made a tentative plan.
Within thirty minutes of meeting Jaime (pronounced Hi-mee; he grew up in Panama, the son of missionaries), it was clear that he is an anomaly in the pack. Although he may have had by far the shortest Major League career of anyone in the pack, he is one of the few who got a college degree, and the only one who transitioned immediately and seamlessly from a career in baseball to something totally different.
In late August of 1987, he was pitching for the Albuquerque Dukes, the Dodgers' AAA farm team. By early September, he was fully employed as an accountant in Little Rock, putting his Baylor accounting degree directly to use.
Baseball was something Cocanower did, but it was not and is not his life. He talks about it with a certain degree of detachment, the way one recounts crazy stories from college.
I had the pleasure of spending my Fourth of July with the Cocanowers and three sets of their couple friends from back in Little Rock. Gini, every bit as feisty as she was in her initial e-mail reply, laid out a spread that would have stuffed the Founding Fathers. "If you come to my house and you end up hungry or sober, that's on you," she said amid a line-up of strawberry shortcake, coconut pie, and other homemade indulgences.
Watching the fireworks display illuminate the soggy night sky over Beaver Lake in their backyard, I felt right at home. This journey is long, arduous, and at times, lonely. But in the company of people that know how to enjoy the moment, who welcomed in a complete stranger and made him feel like he belonged, I felt comforted. It was a 4th I will never forget.
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Day 16: Lowell, AR, 7.4.15