Today is the Hairball’s birthday. His birth name is Jared but I don’t think I’ve called him that in decades. I met Harry when I was 10 years old. He had just moved to the Seattle area from Orlando and I was coming off a 9 year old season that saw me hit .660 and go 6-0 on the mound. I was king shit around CVAC Little League. Then Hairball showed up. He was blasting 220 foot homeruns all year long. He had 12 homers in our 16 game season. I just missed hitting .700 but Hairball was the story of little league that year.
We played baseball together every year after that all through high school. From ages 11 to 15 we were best friends. He lived about two miles away and I’d ride my bike over there every day in the summer. We’d play baseball using a tennis ball. We’d play ping pong at his aunt Donna’s house. Play with his dog Scamp who he called “Geebert” which I never understood.
Oddly enough two of my favorite Hairball stories involve going to the bathroom. Hairball could strip paint off the walls. When we were 12 years old we were staying at our families’ cabin in Sequim, Washington and were gonna go salmon fishing the next day. We were gonna get up at 3:30am to drive up to Sekiu so at 10pm my dad went to bed and me and Hairball went upstairs to do the same. About thirty minutes later Hairball says “I gotta go downstairs and poop.” Now my dad was a grumpy and sometimes mean dude, and that meanness was amplified by ten when he was tired or got woken up. So me being the genius I was told Hairball “Be quiet and don’t flush cause the flush will wake dad up.” Good thinking Jas! So 3:30am arrives and instead of getting woken up by the alarm clock, we were woken up by my dad screaming about the deuce someone had left in the toilet and not flushed. We got downstairs and the whole floor smelt like a sewage plant. My dad started yelling at me why I didn’t flush and I passed the blame on to Hairball and he lectured us both. His great parenting advice included the phrase “When you take a shit, you flush the toilet.” I’ve carried that advice with me ever since.
The other Hairball bathroom story was when we were 15 and in Chicago for the 15 year old world series. Harry, Me and My dad were sharing a room and we played a morning game against Japan which we lost. My dad seizing the afternoon off was going to Arlington Park. Me and Harry were going to just hang out at the hotel. Hairball had fouled the room the morning before and my dad told him “If you gotta shit go to the lobby, I can’t take another morning like that.” So my dad heads out to the track and five minutes later Harry says he has to go #2. I told him to go downstairs and he said “He’s gonna be gone for 4 hours, he won’t notice.” So of course my dad comes running back in cause he forgot his Daily Racing Form. He notices it’s just me in the room and asks where Harry is. I nod at the bathroom door. My dad instantly looked mad but also couldn’t help but laugh as he banged on the door and told Hairball “you better not be doing anything I told you not to do in there.” Luckily my dad wanted to make the early double at Arlington more than he wanted to yell at hairball. But the whole event still makes me laugh.
Hairball was our catcher. I used to love pitching to him. One time we were having arguments during a game in the dugout and out on the field. I remember he said something to me about my pitches and I screamed to him to just get behind the plate, catch the ball, and shut up. He replied “I will if it ever gets here.”
Hairball and I stayed friends and baseball teammates all through high school. We didn’t have as many classes together as we went on so best friends became good friends and eventually became just friends. During college he went to WSU and I stayed home and went to UW. I saw him a couple times on visits over there. We stayed in touch after college but never like it was when we were young. Nowadays the only time I talk to him is when I call him on his birthday, which I’ll do later today. The good thing is when I talk to him or the rare chance I see him, it’s always great and just like old times. Some friends you always feel close to, even if there is now a distance, be it geographical or otherwise.
I think when you’re best friends with someone at a point in your life, especially as a youth, you’re always tied to them. One of my favorite quotes in one of my favorite movies, Stand By Me, always makes me think of Hairball.
“It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant. I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
Happy Birthday Hairball.