October 08, 2007

Keep your eye on the ball

We had a big game the next day. Knights of Pythias did. We had the best uniforms in teen baseball. Black with yellow gold letters PYTHIAS across the front. The first shirt I ever wore that wasn't made out cotton. We also had the highest batting average in our league and the worst record. I was in 7th grade or would be. I was also one of our worst players. I was there because T wanted me to play. We'd walk halfway across town to attend games. Our coach was a nice guy. A fat, beer drinkin', laughing, good old boy. He used to buy us pizza and soda after games at the Village Inn. Trekking from the games in a beat up monster station wagon with the equipment bag tossed in the back. I wonder now if he wasn't doing prescribed community service, but perhaps he just wanted to give something back.

I couldn't hit, I couldn't run fast, but I loved that summer I played ball. My glove was one of T's hand me down's until I got my own. I always preferred his. He had seven or eight brothers and I remember that soft, tan faded leather, made for a boy's hand. The pocket sized just perfect for the smooth white ball with red stitching. The slap it made as you snagged a ball out of thin air a smile all it's own. We played catch for hours in the private school yard across from our houses. I perfected looping side-arm throws that summer.

T almost got me perfected in hitting the ball too. He was our pitcher and probably our best player. I was accepted because I was with him. The b-seed, the one that never fit in. Everyone got to play though. I never sat the bench. Right field. Probably the safest place to put a kid that isn't very athletic. T could play any position, but if he wasn't pitching, he was usually at short calling out the plays to the rest of the team. Despite my worry about his arm being rested he threw soft pitch after soft pitch to me right over the plate. I hit some of them. One might have even gotten to the outfield in a real diamond. They never did in the games. I wasn't a power hitter even when I did connect with the ball.

I had flat sneakers that left strange waffle and circle patterns in the dust around home plate. T and most of the rest of the team had cleats. I started the season wanting to win the coaches most improved player award (a new baseball bat). I coveted a new bat. I tried hard, but I don't think I improved much. It wasn't from lack of trying or T's insistence that I could do it.

I never scored a run that whole summer. I made it to third once. The third-base coach yelled for me to go. It wasn't to be. I ended up in a run down trying to get home and was tagged out. I ended the season knowing I would never be back. I haven't hit a ball since then. I still have a ball though. Every time I see it nesting in the closet box like some ancient weather worn egg, I hear the satisfying slap of it hitting a glove. I can almost feel the soft tug on my wrist as it bends with the weight of the ball and glove. Gleaming PYTHIAS on my chest.


At 11:34 PM, Blogger grace said...

It's all about enjoying the game.

At 3:22 AM, Blogger Lord Chimmy said...

Ahhh, the halcyon days of youth baseball. I remember it well. Those were the good old days.

And, no offense, but I used to always try to hit the ball to right field because I knew it was an easy double...maybe even a triple.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Think Frustrated said...

I'm not much of a baseball fan, but I love playing catch. It's true, that sound of the ball slapping into an old glove is it's own genre of music.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Buffalo said...

The aroma of Neat's Foot Oil transports me to a time and place that exists only in my happiest memories.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Sexy Suburbanite said...

I never played baseball but even as a spectator it's a sport that you really have to be there and experience first hand to really enjoy. Watching it on tv does nothing for me - I have to hear the bat hit that ball for myself and watch it sail through the sky in front of me to really understand what the game is all about.

At 10:05 PM, Blogger JLee said...

You should break it out again for old time's sake!

At 10:24 PM, Blogger jin said...

Brilliantly written Munkey. :-)


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