04 November 2011

Sports Talk--Baseball

Welcome back. Congratulations to the Cardinals! Did you catch any of the Series? I don't get far with night games. 

Did you play a lot of sports growing up? I did a little of everything, not very well. I mentioned that my father was a jock through college, mainly track. My brother earned high school letters in football, basketball and tennis. Me? I’d better break it down starting with our National Pastime if that’s what it still is.  

Hardball
Warren’s backyard baseball with cousins.

Growing up, I was pretty good at baseball in our small backyard if I could get by our dog, Lassie. When I was 9 or 10 years old, playing baseball on a borrowed high school baseball diamond, I longed for our backyard. I was always sent to right field to minimize the damage. I’d stand there hoping no one would hit anything that far in my direction. 

My batting talent was inversely proportional to the pitcher’s speed. I watched in amazement the first time I saw a curveball coming at me. Facing a sidearm pitcher, I ducked and fell to the ground for five pitches, three of which were strikes.  

After hanging up my carefully oiled glove at age 10 or 11, I wondered if my failure was lack of talent or poor vision. I wasn’t wearing glasses yet. In college I found an even better excuse…uh...justification.  

During an Air Force ROTC physical, I was told I had zero depth perception. Zero! Picturing myself walking into walls, I stifled a laugh. The fellow giving me the test results was trying so hard to let me down easy. I could be a navigator, he explained, but I could never be a pilot. Although I had no desire to be either, my heart went out to navigators.

Softball

Forget hardball. I was a softball star! I only played softball once--second base--but I made an extraordinary double play. And I hit the ball. That epic game was played at the summer camp where I passed my Advanced Swimmer (note the capital A and S). 

Even if the other players are still talking about my perfectly executed double play, I’m not sure softball was played anywhere else in the world at the time; certainly not in my neighborhood. It was years before softball gained any popularity.

A colleague used to go off to play slow-pitch softball after work. I should have asked to try out for his team, Club LaLa, to see if I was still a softball phenom. It would have been very cool to have a t-shirt with the Club LaLa logo (censored here) and my own slow-pitch softball card. I would have come up with a fitting moniker for my card; maybe “Z” for Zero Depth Perception.  

Baseball Cards

I don’t know what fate befell the stacks of baseball cards my brother and I accumulated. Presumably it was our mother after she rid the house of comic books. The Brooklyn Dodgers was my brother's team so it became mine. Yeah, I’m one of those diehards who can still name the players. 

Opening packs of gum that contained cards other than Dodgers was an opportunity to trade, especially if they were Yankees. Who wanted Mantle or Maris? When the Dodgers left Brooklyn, my interest in baseball waned. Living close to Washington, D.C., now, I’m working on becoming a Nationals fan. (My brother is much more forgiving; he stuck with the Dodgers.)

Wrap Up
Scene reconstruction of the
big game’s ball and glove.

My reputation caught up with me about 15 years ago. I was invited to join a farm team. It was a pick-up game with my wife’s family in a field between the barn and hangar.  

Gripping a bat for the first time since summer camp stardom, I swung at the first pitch, hit the ball a mile (well, almost), dropped the bat, ran uphill toward first base and pulled my left hamstring, ending any chance of resuming my baseball or softball career. Oh, the tenuous life of an athlete!  

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week.

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