Number of miles driven today: 136

Total miles driven on road trip: 5,155

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Dunkin' Donuts roars back.

Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 19-2-1

Dunkin' Donuts' record: 2-19-1

Cheapest gas I saw today: $ 2.71

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)

Coolest piece of memorabilia in Don Carman's collection: A signed letter from Babe Ruth to his wife's father (he was a sports writer)

Number of jerseys Carman kept from his playing days: 1

It's not every day you get to play catch with your childhood hero.

But that's what happened today in Don Carman's driveway under the blistering heat of the Florida sun.

Following up on our trip to the zoo yesterday, I went over to Carman's Naples home this morning. It's a modern home with Spanish tile roofing, perfectly adapted to the tropical climate, featuring a screened-in swimming pool. The ceilings are tall, the light abundant, and his yappy little dog led me into the living room where a game board for a commemorative edition of Trivial Pursuit sat open.

"Kathy always beats me," Carman said, referring to his wife. "She can remember all that stuff."

​He led me into his study, his Mac laptop's lid down, a legal pad showing the names of his clients (and therefore Scott Boras' clients) with short notes scrawled next to each one in his left-handed writing. This is where Carman works his magic, fielding calls to help rescue players from slumps in a game in which failure is the norm, and success means failing just a little bit less. 

"We talk about baseball maybe 20 percent of the time," he tells me when I ask how he approaches his sessions with players. 

During the season, Carman is rarely home in Naples. As soon as a client hits a snag, he is summoned to some Major League city, often going directly to the player's hotel room for counseling. He is on call for six months every year.

And he loves it.

Carman is actually not a baseball fan. He didn't grow up following it. Before going to a tryout in Oklahoma City for the Phillies where he ultimately got signed, he had to look up Philadelphia on a map. He begrudgingly took his son Jackson to Fenway Park recently, his first time seeing the iconic stadium.

But Carman does love people. He loves watching them, studying them with the attention and detail of Jane Goodall, making mental notes, listening. And then when the time is right, he chooses his words carefully and deliberately. 

Before I left, I asked Carman for one more favor. He had surpassed every dangerously-set and unreasonably high expectation I had had for my childhood hero. I found him to be thoughtful, kind, even gentle for a guy that was once labeled a "head hunter" by Pirates manager Chuck Tanner. He is different from all the other ballplayers I've met so far, possessed of a kind of self-awareness that manifests itself as deep wisdom.

I just wanted to play catch.

And so for five timeless minutes, I threw and received a five-ounce sphere of rubber wrapped in yarn and covered by cowhide. Carman kicked his right leg up just like I once saw on TV, and his left arm came flying over the top, the ball snapping into my glove an instant later with a pop, stinging my palm inside. Even standing a mere 35 feet apart, 23 years removed from his last pitch in the Major Leagues, his arm still had life. 

We started out chatting about his old windup and fielding position. Then we just stopped talking and threw in silence.

But with each toss back and forth, we spoke volumes. 

​​For older blog entries, click here.

Day 22: Naples, FL, 7.10.15


One Pack. No Turning Back.