Neil D. Schwartz

What If Tomorrow Never Comes?
Release Date | October 2013

Excerpts from the forthcoming memoir:
What if Tomorrow Never Comes?
By: Neil David Schwartz
April 17, 2012—8:00 a.m.: A typical day begins. I arrive at my office on Ventura Boulevard in Encino, California. I ascend from a subterranean parking structure via elevator. My destination is the eighteenth floor. Upon entering the office, I observe my desk, decorated by the clutter of the unfinished toil from the previous day. My thumb clumsily searches for the computer's start button. I will soon be linked to the Internet highway, communicating with people I may never see. My hand hovers over the mouse as my foggy mind tells me I need my morning coffee.

Slowly I head back to the elevator, descending to the lobby and street. From there I walk about one hundred yards to the café where each morning I make my habitual stop. There, an effervescent young Central American woman welcomes me with a smile. "Good morning, Señor Neil. The usual?" "Si, por favor." "Your Español is getting so good," she says with a flirtatious but factitious wink.

As I wait for my coffee, I see a dark-haired young woman, slender with a touch of sorrow in her brown eyes. She reminds me of someone from my past. I study her face while the barista calls out, "Amy, nonfat latte."

I am overcome by emotion. The bridges we crossed together have now disappeared. Our tomorrows have all melted away. There is no return. Move forward, I tell myself. Move ahead. The pain is pointed. I blink, and the young lady disappears. Once again I am reminded of the struggle to escape what has become my past.

This was not the start that I had planned for my story, but then I didn't plan on this encounter. There was much that was not part of my design, that I didn't foresee, and that I didn't imagine. We make our choices. We build our lives. We plan for the future. But forces beyond our control can unexpectedly rewrite the script.

In the department store of life, baseball is in the toy department. I have had a lifelong romance with the sport. The relationship, however, began on an unsteady foundation. The tenuous beginning was as follows. At nine years old, I nervously accompanied my father to Rancho Park, located on the west side of Los Angeles. The event was little league tryouts. I stood in amazement, staring at a sea of kids. It seemed like there were a million.

The competition was keen and my skill level poor. I left the tryouts discouraged and humiliated. "Dad, how did these kids get so good?" "Hard work, Neil, hard work. Life requires hard work in order to succeed. Success will not come to you. You have to work to attain it." And so on a disappointing day in April of 1959, I was introduced to the American work ethic—an introduction that was made possible by America's favorite pastime, baseball.

Two weeks after tryouts, several friends at school announced that they had been drafted. "The Red Sox," one proudly declared; "The Yankees," boasted another. Saddened but not surprised, I knew I hadn't made the cut. That night at dinner, looking into my father's eyes, I knew that he felt my pain. "Don't give up," he said. "Don't give up. I'm sure there are still open roster spots to fill." The spots were all filled, but my father was about to create one.

A few nights later at dinner, Dad said, "Neil, congratulations. You were drafted by the Braves." I couldn't believe it. It must have been a mistake or an error in judgment by someone who clearly should have known better. The person who should have known better turned out to be my dad's client. He was a party to a contentious and costly divorce. He was also the manager of the Cheviot Hills Braves. At nine years old, I was introduced to the concept of quid pro quo.

I practiced hard, but when you have poor reflexes and lack of coordination the best solution is probably a different hobby. But my father's words, "Work hard; don't give up," rang loud in my head. Unfortunately, hard work and a positive attitude couldn't overcome my lack of ability.

I entered most games in the last inning because the league had a rule mandating that every player had to play. Right field was reserved for the worst of the worst. That was me! The manager summoned me into action the last inning of every game. As I ran out to take my place in right field, my lips became cold and turned purple, my stomach churned, and my heart fluttered.

Right field was my first religious experience. I prayed fervently to The Almighty: "Please don't let anybody hit a ball anywhere near me." And my prayers were answered through the assistance of a chubby, cherub-faced, blond-haired kid with a crew-cut—our team's pitcher. He had a difficult time getting the ball over the plate, and a parade of walks ensued. I was safe.