One Pack. No Turning Back.

Number of miles driven today: 298

Total miles driven on road trip: 5,013

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Starbucks' dynasty has officially ended. Not sure about America, but South Florida definitely runs on Dunkin'.

Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 18-1-1

Dunkin' Donuts' record: 1-18-1

Cheapest gas I saw today: $ 2.55

Number of states visited overall: 11

Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 8 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia)

Number of blue states visited overall: 3 (California, New Mexico, Florida)

Number of times today I posed as a prospective home buyer to sneak into a private resort to ambush Carlton Fisk: 1

Square footage of the home I toured: 3,500

Square footage of the room I rent back in Oakland: 200

Even the McDonald's security guard calls Billy Reed "Coach."

I walked through the Golden Arches about half an hour early for my meeting with Doc Gooden's high school coach, Billy Reed, a local legend. The Hillsborough High baseball diamond is named "Billy Reed Field." 

A group of three men, two dressed in collared business shirts and ties and one with a baseball cap and shorts, sat near the entrance, joking and jostling back and forth as they noshed on cheeseburgers. A copy of the USA Today spread on the table, and every now and then the security guard, a burly man dressed in blue, would lean in and offer a couple of comments, cracking the group up. 

I ordered some coffee and sat at a booth to take some notes. I had no idea what Coach Reed looked like. But the more I watched the group near the door, the more I wondered if the guy in the baseball cap was, in fact, the Coach. I had thought he was too young for a guy in his 80s, but then I noticed a cane next to him at the table and remembered he was coming from a doctor's appointment.

So I walked up and said, "You aren't Coach Reed, are you?"

He sized me up, then broke out into a broad smile, flashing a set of top front teeth eroded at the bottom. He looked at me just over the top of his prescription tinted sunglasses.

"That's me," he said. 

I pulled up a chair and for the next 45 minutes, the Coach was back in the dugout. 

"I considered myself a teacher, not a coach," he clarified, his mouth full of carbs. 

"I wanted to teach them more than just baseball. I was teaching them about life."

"Were you a tough coach, er, teacher?" I asked

"Nope." No hesitation there.

"What would you do if your players broke the rules?" 

"Pole to pole. I'd make them run from the left field foul pole, down the line, all the way to the right field one. Sprinting. Timed."

No, not tough at all.

Here's how Doc Gooden described it in his book Heat: "I mean, this was worse than having a strict father. It was like having a twenty-four-hours-a-day drill sergeant looking over your shoulder."

When the conversation turned to Doc, the Coach's demeanor became a bit guarded, measuring his words before responding. He started out calling Gooden a "quiet, hard-working kid, no trouble" but when I pressed him on some of the stories I'd heard (Gooden quitting, benching him for Opening Day because he missed home room), the Coach let his guard down a bit. 

"I tried to coach him from the shoulders up," he said. "He had all the ability from the shoulders down."

His arms folded, his eyes tinged with red but very alive. The Coach seemed disappointed, with Doc for sure, but perhaps also a bit with himself.

He looked away. "He shoulda been in the Hall of Fame. If he hadn't screwed up, he'd be in the Hall of Fame. He should have played in Minnesota, you know, somewhere quiet. One time, I drove to New York and came around the corner, and there he is up on the wall, the side of a building."

The Coach folded his newspaper, offering me the sports section only after he'd checked the baseball standings. 

"He can't blame nobody but himself."

​​For older blog entries, click here.


The Coach

Day 20: Tampa, FL, 7.8.15