Roughly Speaking Dan Rodricks: Commentary and conversation on life in Baltimore, Maryland and the USA

On leaving baseball, flipping the First, discovering an awesome tree

Nobody asked me, but outfielder Colby Rasmus’ midseason departure from the Orioles seems so understandable, so human, that it’s a wonder such a thing does not occur more often among professional athletes: Acting on a desire to leave the game they’ve played since they were children, and long past the time when it was fun.

The other day, Rasmus told manager Buck Showalter that, at the age of 31 and after 10 seasons in the majors, he was done with baseball and headed home. He did the same thing last year when he played for Tampa Bay, then tried a comeback with the Orioles. Anyone who early in life turned a sport or hobby into a career, or who took over a thriving family business, knows the challenge of maintaining enthusiasm for it, even when the money’s great. Anyone who stepped onto a path that seemed immediately secure and profitable has moments of doubt, moments of yearning to do other things. “Follow your bliss,” Joseph Campbell famously said, and you’re lucky if you do and that the path is clear and goes on forever. But some need to step off or change direction. “Don't be afraid,” Campbell added, “and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be."

Nobody asked me, but Aaron Yealdhall, the young artist and musician who came up with the excellent “Press On Annapolis” design for T-shirts and stickers in the aftermath of the Capital Gazette shooting, is a chip off the old block. His late father, Gary Yealdhall, was the most talented man I ever knew — a profoundly gifted illustrator, singer and comedian who left us too early. Aaron’s design looks so much like something by his father’s hand, it’s spooky. “I've always wanted to be able to make some sort of difference with my artwork,” Aaron said Friday. “It's cool to make a living doing something you love, but this feels really validating.”

Nobody asked me, but Maryland Democrats who think they can “Flip the First” probably still hold out hope that the Orioles can turn things around and make a run for the American League playoffs. Rep. Andy Harris, the First Congressional District’s conservative incumbent, garnered more than 48,000 votes in last month’s Republican primary. And that’s without even trying. By contrast, in a contested primary with at least three credible candidates, Democrats mustered only 36,697 total votes. The Blue Wave does not appear to be rolling toward the Eastern Shore.

The only way Army veteran Jesse Colvin, winner of the Democratic primary with about 14,000 votes, beats Dr. Harris is through a very tall order: Win the votes of just about every registered Democrat in the district, along with those of half of all independents, while hoping that a ton of Harris supporters stay home on Election Day in November. Nobody asked me, but I doubt that’s going to happen, especially with a Republican governor up for re-election.

Nobody asked me, but if Seattle can ban plastic straws, Baltimore and the surrounding counties can do it, too. “Strawless in Seattle” goes into effect next summer, with businesses that sell food or drink prohibited from dispensing plastic straws and utensils, thereby reducing the amount of plastic that goes into the trash stream, or any stream. “Many places across the city have made the switch from plastic to compostable straws, utensils and other items,” The Seattle Times reports. Why not here?

Nobody asked me, but Aldi, the supermarket chain, provides — unintentionally, I’m pretty sure — a great public service for just 25 cents: An opportunity for small acts of kindness. Aldi charges a quarter deposit for the use of a shopping cart; you get your quarter back when you return the cart. I’ll let Sun reader Barry Norwitz describe what happened to him at the Aldi in Owings Mills: “As I was about to put a quarter in the slot to retrieve a cart, a woman came up behind me who was leaving and offered me her cart. I offered to give her a quarter and she said no. I did my shopping and walked out of the store. I gave my cart to another lady who offered to give me a quarter and I said, ‘Just take the cart.’ I think both ladies and I all felt good about being kind to each other, and it only cost 25 cents.”

Nobody asked me, but when you’re walking the streets of Baltimore, thinking about work or about getting some place as fast as possible, you need to look up or risk missing the magnificent. One day in May, I discovered a tree — possibly a bald cypress, according to my iNaturalist app — that reached high above the three-story rowhouses of Mount Vernon. It grew straight, 60 or 70 feet, and perfectly symmetrically, from a small backyard along Hamilton Street. I stood. I stared. I am pretty sure that was awe I felt.

drodricks@baltsun.com

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