THE NEXT MORNING, Dutch and I meet again, and this time there’s no tooth pain. His eyes are clear.
It’s a bright, sunny Clearwater day, one of so many that look just like this. He’s thinking he might get out and play a little golf.
He’s got just one thing left to say for this story, something he’s been thinking about all night.
“Tim, I need you to make this clear: Anything I did in the past is my fault. Not my ex-wife’s fault, not any of my kids’ faults, not baseball, not the media — me, my fault. I did the damage. Will you make sure that comes through? Will you do that for me?”
What isn’t as easy is to know for sure whether Dutch’s new life — the one that now has him mixing it up with unenlightened baseball fans, downing brews with clients at sports bars, talking baseball with first-time callers — will have real legs.
“I hear conflicting reports,” says one prominent baseball executive who loves and respects him immensely. “I’m hoping.”
Though Dutch’s forays into the surreal still worry some people, all indications are that he’s cleaned up his act dramatically. “‘He looks better than he has in years,” says one Clearwater friend. “And he no longer hits the town.”
The phrase I hear echoed most from those who know Dutch best is, “He’s got your back,” quickly followed by, “It’s what made him a clubhouse leader.”
So despite the screwups, all one bazillion of them, maybe the guy deserves a little due. Maybe it’s only fair to close out on a buoyant note with something Dutch said about himself in a rare moment of reflection, free of all the metaphysical stuff:
“Sometimes I look back at my life, and I see all the baseball I played, the All-Star games, the World Series, how I helped some guys in the clubhouse, how great my kids are, some of the nice things I’ve done for people along the way, and I think maybe I’m doing okay, maybe things aren’t so bad, just maybe I’m not so crazy after all.”