Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
The March meeting of the La Mesa Rotary Club heard a story from one of their own members — a story many of them might have wished was their story.
Rotarian Scott Elam of La Mesa is a husband, father, businessman — all-around good guy.
But, you get the impression that, if he could go back to his 16th and 17th years, he’d do it in a heartbeat.
For two summers, he got to be what innumerable kids would love to do: He got to be a bat boy for the San Diego Padres.
How did he get that job?
“I wrote letters — lots of letters. I wrote 25 of them over a two-month period. I might have gotten the job because they figured I’d never go away unless they hired me.”
Hire him they did.
For the 1984 World Series season, he was an alternate, and got to work about 20 games, mostly on day games and weekends, and filling in for full-time bat boys who couldn’t make it to work. In 1985, he went full-time.
That didn’t matter so much, because he was in heaven — on a major league ballfield, working, and playing around, with bona fide major leaguers.
Warming up players, fielding balls during batting practice, running errands, collecting signed baseballs from major leaguers that had been promised to supporters — all the while wearing a major league uniform.
He was in heaven, and loving every minute of it.
“You get to know the players, and most of them treated you as a friend and in a way, teammates. One of my favorites was Steve Garvey, who had been traded to the Padres from the Los Angeles Dodgers.”
Elam remembers well Garvey’s comment on the different brown, orange and white Padres uniforms. Garvey said, “I used to look like an American flag. Now I look like a taco.”
“Garvey was nice, but very business-like,” Elam remembers.
One of Elam’s jobs was when Garvey broke a bat at the plate, he was to bring him two replacement bats to pick from. Most players who broke bats simply threw them aside to be thrown away. Not Garvey.
“He always told me, ‘Scotty, take this broken bat and put it in my locker.’ Steve knew the value of his name, and he’d donate those broken bats to charities to be used as fundraising tools.”
By 1985, Elam was a full-time bat boy for the club and he even got to go on a few road trips with the team.
There were players he liked, and players that terrified him.
“I once had to ask Goose Gossage to sign some balls before a game. I walked up and asked, and Goose about took my head off. I quickly learned that Goose did not want to be bothered before a game. But after the game, he tracked me down and apologized over and over again. Turned out to be a good guy.
“Garry Templeton was one of the good guys. You could talk to him about anything, anytime.
“Carmelo Martinez and Andy Hawkins were other great guys. Some were not so nice, like Graig Nettles and Al Bumbry. But almost all the guys realized I had a job to do, and that job was to help them with whatever they needed.”
The bat boys had their own locker room and showers, but were in the clubhouse whenever they were not on the field.
Did they get paid for living this dream? Not a lot. They got $15 per game, but they also got two tickets to every game they worked. That came in handy many times.
Elam has made a whole PowerPoint presentation about his years, and it tells the story well.
At the end of the day, would he do it all again?
Does the sun come up in the East?
— Doug Curlee is Editor at Large for the Mission Times Courier, sister publication of La Mesa Courier and has worked in print and broadcast journalism in San Diego for many moons. Reach him at email@example.com.