PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- I'm zippin' across the state, one hand on my Big Gulp, the other on the wheel. I've got the music cranked. I've got the pedal to the metal. I've got visions of the Frown Prince, dancing through my head.
Every year I beg for this assignment: The spring-training "interview" with Eddie Murray. It is the easiest workday in American journalism. Get the big "No!" from Eddie, pound the laptop for an hour, then hit the beach.
I'm chanting his name now. I've got my entire day planned. Spend the night in West Palm Beach, hit the New York Mets' training camp by 8:30 a.m. Eddie will be delighted to see me. I should be finished by 8:31.
A three-hour drive for a three-second interview -- now that's time management. What was it Mets general manager Al Harazin said last week? "He does more with an eyebrow going up than most people do with a dozen sentences."
I won't even get the eyebrow.
No need to even prepare questions. Eddie talked in Los Angeles. He's talking in New York. But he's still fuming at the Baltimore media, and the funny part is, he thinks we care.
At one point maybe, but three years after the fact? I can't even remember why Eddie is so upset. Maybe it will come back to me at the beach. Or maybe later, as I clear my mind by taking in back-to-back showings of Wayne's World.
I enter the Mets' clubhouse at my appointed time. I immediately run into former Orioles coaches Al Jackson and Tom McCraw. I glance frantically at my watch."Let me go get blown off by Eddie," I tell them. "I'll be right back."
The two coaches look at me quizzically. "Aw, he wouldn't do that," Jackson squeals in his high-pitched voice, chuckling. But he and McCraw have no idea. They joined the Orioles in 1989, the year after Eddie left.
The New York writers, on the other hand, nod and smile as I approach the players' lockers. They know what I'm here for, and they can't wait for the show. Baseball writers nationwide think it's hilarious, this concept of Baltimore as media hell.
Eddie should get the conspiracy guy, Oliver Stone, to bring his life story to the silver screen. I'll confess on camera that I once fantasized about the Orioles trading Eddie to New York. Oliver can dissect Eddie's last HTS interview like the Zapruder film.
Media whiz that he is, Eddie actually chose to go to New York himself -- for $7.5 million over two years. Now he gets the tabloids, the talk shows, the works. Think Eddie hated Stan the Fan? Wait until he hears WFAN.
But enough reverie.
Time to work.
A New York writer reports an Eddie sighting near the trainer's room. Another spots him near the players' lounge. I stake out his locker carefully. It's critical I accost him before the workout, so I don't have to wait another four hours for our big reunion.
Finally, the Frown Prince appears. I tip toe toward him. He tiptoes away. Ah, the Eddie stroll -- a most effective repellent. It warms my heart. It shows Eddie still remembers, after all these years.
"Went pretty well," a New York writer cracks.
No, it went perfect. I am now certain Eddie won't talk. I am now certain it will be a great day.
A few minutes later Eddie is stretching on the clubhouse floor. Again, I tiptoe toward him. Eddie keeps stretching. I tiptoe some more. Eddie keeps stretching. I'm within three feet. Eddie keeps stretching.
I always think of all these clever openers with Eddie, then abandon them at the last minute. Teammates rave about his sense of humor. But In ever even get Eddie to change his expression, much less smile.
Anyway, here goes.
"How ya doin', Eddie?"
The familiar uncomfortable silence.
"I'm going to ask you one question."
He stares at his toes.
"Go right ahead," he says.
"Can we talk after the workout?"
"No," he says.
I close my notebook. I go talk to McCraw.
A short while later, back in the media workroom, the New York writers are typing furiously. I pack up my work bag and announce I am leaving.
It's not even 10 a.m.
My workday is over.
I tell you, I love this guy.