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Playing Mind Games With Meat

Sitting in the bullpen was a monotonous existence. The relentless requests for baseballs were a constant source of agony. Fans would come to the end of the stands and lean over the railing asking, “Can I have a ball?” In the Major Leagues, it was a little easier to give them away, we had as many as we wanted. In the minors, it was different. We had precious few. Every so often we’d get a foul ball that we knew had a scuff on it and we could toss it into the stands. For the most part, the baseballs we had in the bullpen were the only ones we had to warm up with and practice with for the week.

When we had a ball that we could give away, we sometimes played a game with an eager fan. We would wait until a kid around 8-10 years old would ask for a baseball. We would tell them, “Yes, you can have a baseball, but first you need to do a favor for us. We need the bullets for the radar gun. The other bullpen has them (the other team’s bullpen). If you can get the bullets for the radar gun, we’ll give you a ball.”

It was a game that both bullpens knew well. The kid’s eyes would get really big at the prospect of getting a spherical treasure and off they would run to the opposing team’s bullpen. Around 5 minutes later, the kid would show back up at our bullpen and say, “The other bullpen says they’ll give you the bullets to the radar gun if you give them the keys to the batter’s box.” We’d reply, “Fine, we’ll give them the keys to the batter’s box if they give us the box of curveballs.” Off the kid would run to the other bullpen to get the box of curveballs.

After several trips back and forth between bullpens, the kid usually figured out that they were being deceived. There are no bullets for the radar gun and the batter’s box definitely doesn’t require keys.

We pitchers in the bullpen used phrases that sounded legitimate to deceive the kid asking for a ball. We used a bit of truth mixed in with a bit of lies. Marketing has been doing this to me for years. Mixing a concoction of a little truth and a little deception.

What I Imagined Wasn't True

A few years ago, what I thought about the chickens, cows, and pigs I was eating didn’t match reality. In my imagination, I saw the animals on a farm with vast fields of open pasture. In my mind, these animals were eating what they choose to eat, getting to act naturally as they go about their day to day lives. A bit of extra hay or feed just to make things a bit easier. This mental image was created by marketing.

I’ve found out that these photos in grocery stores of spacious farms with luscious green grass and wide open spaces are not accurate. Industrial farming is a totally different setting. The pigs and chickens are raised indoors. There are no bugs to eat for the chickens, no grass for the cows to eat, no outdoor dirt for the pigs to roll in. There is no sunshine. Workers have to wear several layers of protective equipment to keep from getting sick when they enter the facility.

When I walk into a large grocery store, there may be small depictions reinforcing my previous deception. These images are generic. There aren’t any photographs of the actual farms that the meat or eggs have come from. There’s no indication of the animal’s living conditions, what it ate, or even where the farm is located.

It is very typical to do all sorts of research about items we are going to buy. We read reviews, look at pictures of people wearing the clothes, filter out items that get ranked low. What I want is a website link on the package so that I could look up pictures of the farm where the animal grew up. I'd like to read the reviews of people who have visited the farms and seen the animals.

I feel like the kid who has realized I’ve been given the runaround by the bullpen. I now know that the radar gun doesn't use bullets and the batters box can't be locked. I don't want to be deceived. If you're not going to give me a baseball, so be it, but don't trick me. Please tell me the truth about what I'm eating.

If you want to know the truth, watch this tour of Craig Watts's farm on the PBS series called Original Fare (Warning: Contains Disturbing Images):

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