I first remember Erin Rhodes when I went up to bat against him (he was the pitcher) in, hmm, I think 3rd or 4th grade. Back in those days we junior leaguers played on what I would call an abridged field. Meaning, the distance from the pitchers mound to home plate was about forty feet. It’s like sixty feet and some inches, on a professional field, to give you an idea.

Erin Rhodes, even when we were all like, ten years old, could whip the ball into the catchers mitt faster than anyone else. He threw the ball so fast I remember thinking, “where’d the ball go?” In a spit second the ball was there, and then gone. Suffice to say, NO ONE got a hit. Not a single one of us. I think we got stomped, in fact I know we did. Erin threw a shut out, meaning we didn’t score even one run. He may have walked a few of us. So our team did manage to get on base. But not because we earned it. It was a technical earning, not a straight up line drive between center and left field.

Fast forward to high school. Erin still plays baseball, still a pitcher, still throwing heat. I never saw him clocked in high school, but if I had to guess, I’d say he was throwing at speeds of around mid to hi eighties. I don’t know if he ever was throwing a ball at or over ninety miles an hour. Interestingly enough, two years prior I DID see a guy by the name of Matt Newman throw low nineties. Matt couldn’t of stood more than about five feet eight inches. Gator arms. And he could whip that shit fast. Playing ball for so long you can sorta gauge how fast someone is throwing. Anything ninety miles and up, well. You hear the ball hiss. It’s because the seams are spinning so fast that the air makes the ball, well, hiss. And the pop we all hear when the ball hits the catchers mitt is undeniable. Anyway, Matt Newman was throwing a baseball over ninety miles an hour, at the age of sixteen. Crazy.

Back to Erin Rhodes. So, Erin made varsity senior year. Go figure. I did not. Which was one of the shittiest, most embarrassing things I’ve experienced. I hung out on occasion with Erin. We were all stoners, potheads, weed smokers, so often times we’d link up in a group, get high, and then go cause some mayhem. What I learned about Erin was that he was a quiet dude. Not really a bully like some of the other Mormon potheads were.

Here’s where things get heavy. Erin showed up in the locker room with a tattoo across the bridge of his back. First off, Mormons aren’t supposed to have tattoos, but he didn’t care too much, obviously. It was what he got on his back that made me sad. It was his dad’s name. His dad, who, when Erin was a young child, committed suicide. I thought it was great to have a tattoo honoring his father, but it made me realize Erin may have been in immense pain because of not having a dad, and knowing his dad took his own life.

Fast forward past high school. I hear from a friend that Erin is down at U of A. From what I can tell, he may or may not be on the baseball team. What caught my attention was when my friend told me Erin had become a “pill popper”. I knew that was no good at all. I’ve “popped” pills, and let me say this- fuck that shit.

I don’t know how many years later it was, but I found out from my dad that Erin had OD’d on pills, and was dead. Erin had, in a way, also killed himself.

I thought back to facing him at the plate when we were both ten years old. How neither one of us did drugs or drank alcohol. That Erin Rhodes had a bright future ahead of him. Except, he couldn’t manage the pain. The suffering brought him to his death.

I say fuck pills, because it’s easy to accidentally die from certain pills, and too many of a certain pill. One cannot kill themselves accidentally by taking a massive bong hit, and that’s a fucking fact. If Erin had just stuck with smoking weed, I undoubtedly believe he’d still be alive. Probably wouldn’t have made it to the pros, probably would’ve ended up doing a regular job. But he’d still be here.

I don’t know what the point of that story was other than I miss Erin. I feel horrible that he didn’t make it. That he got lost, and then left this life altogether. I wish I could’ve called him up, “remember me, Erin? Let’s talk for a second or two buddy”. But I can’t now. And I didn’t know back then.

I hope where ever you are Erin, that your dad is also there, and the pain and suffering has ended. I hope you’re both smiling, and maybe playing some toss with the old baseball. Miss ya dude.

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