Oh, the joy he'll bring to Mudville

Updated: August 29, 2003, 5:23 PM ET
By Mark Kreidler | Special to ESPN.com

So Phil Mickelson gets a pitching tryout for a short-term contract with Toledo, and you just know what happens next: The Mud Hens suddenly surge to the brink of greatness, storm into the playoffs and get swept by (fill in the blank). No soup for you.

That's the view from Potshot Hill, anyway, where suddenly it's so crowded you have to throw a few elbows just to get in a catcall before they're all gone. (Sample cut: Of course Mickelson's trying out in the minors. The majors are out of the question.) And give Mickelson, a golfer by trade, credit for this much: The man knows how to put it on a tee.

Phil Mickelson
No one will confuse Phil Mickelson with Barry Bonds at the plate, but he doesn't look all that different than portly Livan Hernandez on the mound.
They're lining up to see if Righty fails. Mickelson, a left-hander in golf, apparently pitches from the right side when he's tossing batting practice, as he did last weekend to the Akron Aeros. He tossed well enough to convince himself, his swing coach and his swing coach's buddy that Mickelson might be able to pitch at the Triple-A level, if only for a night.

In one of those great-things-happen-to-famous-people coincidences, Mickelson's swing coach's buddy runs the Mud Hens. And, thus, the sudden swarm here at Insult Vista, where the great temptation is to swipe away at the rich athlete goofing on the second sport. (Worked for Michael Jordan, it'll work here.) But before the blood gets all the way to the moon, let's move back one baby step.

What if, in the end, Phil Mickelson actually stands for you and me?

Once you get past the easy mockery of Mickelson, you are left with some unassailable facts. The first is that the guy is a very, very good golfer, with 21 PGA Tour victories and something like $23 million in earnings. The second is that Mickelson has a body shape straight out of the Tuesday Night Softball League Calendar.

Fine by us. In fact, better than fine. You want to root for someone in sports? Root for the humanoid.

Mickelson isn't out of shape; he just more closely resembles the working man than does your standard body-as-architecture buff athlete. In this, frankly, he's in the right sport, since no one ever accused Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer of ab-crunching their ways to greatness.

And this, of course, makes baseball a perfect weekend retreat for Mickelson. There is no baseball body shape. There's no standard. Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez may be chiseled from granite, but I'm pretty sure that's Livan Hernandez up in Montreal having one of his best seasons ever, despite looking at any moment as if he might become too winded to deliver a pitch.

And Hernandez can hit. And he can field. I seem to remember something about him wielding a mean golf club as well, although the details get fuzzy -- time clouds the memory. Hernandez does all this without the benefit of a body by Jake or any of Jake's relatives. And he may not even have met Rod Beck.

Phil Mickelson? Upon further review, the man would make a hell of a pitcher. He's roundish -- not fat, just roundish -- and he's long-armed, and the guy is undeniably an athlete, and he is a gambling person by nature, and he'd probably throw you a ridiculous pitch on a full count just to see what happens when you swing.

It's unclear whether he's got the stuff to get out Triple-A batters in an actual game; the closest Mickelson has come so far is not letting any of the Double-A Akron Aeros hit a ball over the fence against him in batting practice last weekend. Phil being Phil, he offered $300 to any hitter who could.

The batters left with empty pockets, but that's nothing new around Mickelson. It's true, he hasn't won a major, but the man has never had a problem with the minors. All due respect to Righty for being curious as to just how far that truism extends.

Mark Kreidler is a columnist with the Sacramento Bee and a regular contributor to ESPN.com