Getting my balls (and strikes) back

So I’m flipping through the latest copy of “O” (that’s The Oprah Magazine to all you godless heathens) and I come across a piece by Dr. Phil. You know, that bald chick with the mustache who dispenses painfully obvious advice to the fat and the married.

In this month’s article he tells a woman the reason hubby says nasty things to her is because he hasn’t reconciled her doing the hunka-chunka with a coworker. As if she needed both hands and a flashlight to find that one.

Then, reading Phil’s response to the 58-year-old obese woman who couldn’t understand why overeating made her fat, I had to ask myself just what in the Funk & Wagnalls I was doing.

How did it come that this once relatively manly man (please stop laughing) was reduced to spending his day off browsing a magazine for bored housewives?

Are housewives even a thing anymore? I mean, I’m a househusband, so I guess so.

I wasn’t raised in a tutu or forced to draw my feelings as a youngster.

I did have a Raggedy Ann doll until I was 8 years old but I skinned my first coyote when I was 9.

I grew up shooting frogs, burning bugs and playing tackle football without pads or a helmet, which might explain my tendency to … wait, where am I?

I built forts in the woods and once shot a man for snoring.

OK, so, maybe the snoring part is a bit of a stretch.

What could have possibly happened to decrease my testosterone levels so?

Baseball!

I blame the baseball strike of 1994.

Getting paid to do what you love seemed blessing enough, but not for these guys.

As so many unbelievable things do, it happened. I was 19 the year we had no World Series, and so angry I sold my card collection and vowed never to watch the game again.

So began my descent into the bowels of metro-sexuality.

Long-gone were boyhood summer days spent in the outfield shielding my face from the sun with my Phil Rizzuto shortstop mitt that was far too big for my hand.

Gone was the sweet smell of old leather and scrounging quarters to buy packs of Topps from the lonely display case so out of place at the neighborhood hardware store.

Gone were the nights spent flipping through price guides and trying to calculate how much a boy of 14 was worth.

I sold a Darryl Strawberry for $1.50. For Jose Cansenco I got $3. Big bucks for a poor kid.

Trading, selling and bartering for baseball cards was like the kid equivalent to the New York Stock Exchange.

Gone were the afternoons with Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson, both badly dog-eared from one too many Saturdays spent sorting them in front of the black and white TV with the tinfoil antenna, while the boys of summer did their thing.

I did a fine job of abiding my oath all these years.

It wasn’t until 2006, when my “Bless You Boys” made it all the way to the World Series.

Sitting alone, (the wife has never known me as a “sports guy” and I know how she looks at men who are hooked on NASCAR and golf, so it was best kept secret.) I watched every winning game with glee, and the last games of the series in agony as they tallied loss after loss.

Even though they didn’t make it in the end, watching the Tigers back in action awakened something inside me, and the following season I found myself sneaking part of a game here and there.

Then came the steroid scandals, talk of adding disclaimers and asterisks to the records of athletes found guilty of nothing and now the government inquests into what private citizens do with their respective bodies.

America’s pastime may not have had any dignity left to lose, but I was not going to let another one of its self-inflicted black eyes stop me from watching the game I love.

I justified the alleged actions of some in MLB with the theory that, while steroids can make a person stronger, pills and serums are no substitute for dedication, training, sacrifice or talent.

Players who take drugs do so often at great risk and at the very least they should receive the accolades they’ve earned without fear of municipal witch hunts. (Is he advocating drug use?)

Besides, we all take steroids, it’s just a matter of to what degree.

The U.S. Olympic team must take its own food to China this year because Chinese meat is so loaded with growth hormones, our athletes would test positive for steroids if they ingested it.

Though perhaps to a lesser degree, American livestock and produce are also on the juice: One-pound chicken breasts and bulletproof tomatoes are not natural.

Whether it’s the World’s Strongest Man competitors, pro wrestlers or even baseball players, I just don’t care what they put in their bodies.

I made the mistake of giving up a lifelong love (and a portion of my manhood) over dubious behavior once but I’m not going to let it happen again.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the Tigers are already in spring training and I have to get started rebuilding my card collection from scratch.