The uniform is instantly recognizable; the slight figure rooted next to the on-deck circle vaguely familiar; the name no one knows. This littlest Indian is Paul Wick, bat boy to baseball's world champions and, come Braves opening day April 15, the most envied boy in all Milwaukee. Paul's formal duties are simple ("Any boy who puts his mind to it can do it"). He cleans the players' shoes, recovers and stacks the bats and helps Equipment Manager Joe Taylor keep the clubhouse neat. But the intangible demands of the job transcend these humdrum tasks. "A bat boy," says Fred Haney, "is vital not because he performs these routine duties, but because of the spirit he brings to the team and to the game." Paul is, in effect, a happily unsophisticated one-man claque to the players, doubling up with helpless laughter when Eddie Mathews, changing into uniform, finds his shoes nailed to the floor, deeply appreciative of the dramatic tension when Burdette sets fire to the newspaper of a dozing sportswriter.
Paul owes his good fortune to the Braves' Warren Spahn, who leased a house from his father. But Paul had to work his way up through the bat boy minors, first attending the visiting team, then as ball boy. His rewards are satisfying. Paul has collaborated on a book (Batboy of the Braves, Greenberg), shags flies during practice, has his locker next to that of Hank Aaron and wears with pride the accolade of a nickname—Air Wick, of course.
S. NIELS LAURITZEN