Today’s column could be called a potpourri, a miscellany, a grab bag or just a random collection of thoughts—my own and my readers’, related to recent columns I’ve written.

To begin with, baseball continues to captivate me. The World Baseball Classic and the Czech national team I rooted for are in the past, but the major league season is here. And now I’m rooting for a Pittsburgh Pirate.

Just one Pirate, not the whole team (unlike my colleague and friend Tim McNally, Westside’s biggest Pittsburgh Pirate fan). The one Pirate I’m rooting for is Rob Zastryzny, a relief pitcher who has been a major leaguer off and on since 2016.

I doubt if anyone reading this column, even Tim, has heard of Zastryzny and I’m sure no one could spell his name correctly, but he’s a special guy to me.

As it happened, Rob Zastryzny signed three baseballs for me in March 2017 after a spring training game in Arizona at Sloan Park, the spring home of the Chicago Cubs. At that time he was on the Cubs’ roster, when they were basking in the glow of the world championship they won in 2016. In fact, he pitched in a few games in 2016, earned one victory and was awarded a World Series ring.

After that spring 2017 game, I had three baseballs with me, and Rob Zastryzny signed all three, which I gave to three of my grandsons, who at that time were ages 2, 4,and 7. My grandsons still have those baseballs, I believe, somewhere in a box or a drawer.

Between then and now, Zastryzny, whom I like to call “Zaz” (even though I doubt if anyone else does), has not had good luck in baseball.

Since that day in March 2017 when he signed those baseballs until this season, during the past six years, has played in exactly 16 major league games. He left the Cubs after the 2018 season and has since played in the organizations of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels, before he was picked up by the Pirates this spring.

During that time he played for many different minor league teams including the Long Island Ducks and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. It has been a long and bumpy journey, but over the past years his name has remained in the back of my mind–far, far back.

So it was a pleasant surprise when I noted in a random box score recently that in the Pirates’ 2023 season opener the winning pitcher was Rob Zastryzny. I immediately told my grandsons not to give up on those signed baseballs, which are currently worth $18.64 each (which is what you can buy a major league baseball for on Amazon).

But maybe Rob Zastryzny will become famous, and those balls will someday be worth more. After all, he was selected to play on Canada’s national baseball team this spring. Meanwhile, I will continue to check Pittsburgh Pirate box scores regularly in hopes that he will continue to do well. Go, Zaz!

Continuing with baseball, some very perceptive readers may remember I wrote in a column last month that I was proud of the Czech national baseball team making it to the World Baseball Classic and that I, offspring of Czech grandparents, bought a Czech Republic baseball cap. As I wrote in that column, I promised to wear it around Los Banos.

I kept that promise and was met with significant apathy and indifference. Several people I encountered thought the “CR” stood for the Colorado Rockies. Only one person, Jose at Savemart, recognized it as the Czech team’s cap.

The cap now resides on a shelf in my closet, a good memory but not a part of my everyday apparel.

Readers with a good memory will also recall that I wrote about the April 1 Los Banos Rotary Crab Feed and how I hoped it l would go well. I would now like to report that the event was a success.

All of the club’s Rotarians participated, and the community came out in numbers to have fun and support the club’s effort to provide scholarships for high school seniors in Los Banos.

What impressed me most was the hard work and enthusiasm of about 25 students from the Los Banos and Pacheco High Schools Interact clubs. These young people participated with energy and a smile. They followed directions conscientiously and showed initiative when they needed to think and act on their own.

Events like the crab feed, during which local young people shine, provide hope for people of all ages in our community. These teenagers have already learned the value and importance “Service above Self,” the Rotary motto.

Readers with good memories will also remember I wrote a column about my determination to walk more, in part to strengthen my back, as I continue to advance in senior citizenship.

I want to thank one of my readers, who, remembering that article, during one of my walks stopped his car, pulled over and gave me good advice.

“John, if you’re walking to improve your back,” said Rusty Connell, “you need to straighten up. You’re stooping a little as you walk. Perhaps you’re looking down too much. You need to look straight ahead to walk correctly.”

I appreciated Rusty’s observation and advice, especially coming from a fellow senior citizen. I knew immediately he was right, and, as I continued with my walk, I straightened up, put my shoulders back and looked straight ahead.

Thank goodness there are faithful readers of The Westside Express, like Rusty, who look out for their columnists!