Batter Up: Son No. 6

I hated baseball as a kid. A direct correlation to how much I sucked at it as a kid. And a deeper correlation to how excellent each of my five older brothers were at the game. (No, I don’t need therapy. Get out of my head.) So, when my brother Bruce mailed me the 550+ page edition of his newly printed The Baseball Box Prophecy, I was severely torn between feelings of adulation for him, and feelings of angst for me. (How quickly the publishing of his first fictional work has centered around me. No, I still don’t need therapy.) How was I going to get through it? What if it bored me to tears? What if I didn’t get it? How honest did he expect me to be with my reaction? Then I thought, no matter my reaction to the book, could it possibly be more unsettling than coming out to my LDS family as a 22 year-old? Nah. Absolutely not. So I grabbed a glass of wine (I know, you’re supposed to have a beer with baseball, but remember my LDS upbringing… and then please forget about the wine), propped myself on the couch, and started reading.

The story is told from the perspective of an 11 year-old kid who simply LOVES baseball. Already, I felt myself challenged. My adolescent years started to swirl around me like the blue orb swirls around Cletis, the story’s protagonist…

…Gerdes Turf Farm (pronounced Ger-dees). That was the name of my little league team. Mike and Russ got to play together on some cool team with a winning record year after year. Me? Not so much. Luckily, I only had to play on that team for two years before my parents took pity on me, but we sucked. Big time. We couldn’t win a game to save our lives, and every other team in the league called us “Turdees Turf Farm” or “Gerdes Turd Farms.” Unbelievable. I laugh now, but I’m sure I was traumatized by it. I remember my first practice, when my dad took me to the ball fields out by Wickes Lumber Yards, and I had NO idea what position I wanted to play. So, when the coach asked me, I looked around the field for the position I thought might be the least embarrassing and the most safe from dropping fly balls, missing grounders, or getting beaned. Simple. I chose catcher. Lots of padding. No one sees your face. Only 30 feet from the dug-out. “Whoa,” my dad said. “Oh,” my coach said. Both of them eyed me with a mixture of suspicion and concern, but then quickly smiled, patted me on the back, and told me to grab my glove and throw some balls with the rest of the team. And that was the moment my forgettable career in little league began. (Note: my career as catcher was short-lived when I realized that someone was going to be chucking balls at me as fast and hard as they could, practice after practice, game after game. Hello right field.)

I remember our coach teaching us the “take a pitch” signal. First of all, the signal thing scared me to death. All those hand motions, no real order, and then some fake and others real… how in the hell was I supposed to track that, let alone understand what “take a pitch” meant? But, of course, when the coach asked if any of the team had questions, this catcher was silent. Like I was going to raise my hand among all my team-mates and acknowledge my stupidity! So I stayed silent. And then, when I was at bat, I got the signal: “take the pitch.” I remember that moment with clarity like my brothers remember their home runs. The pitcher was awful. He hadn’t thrown anything over the plate the entire time I was at the plate. So why in the hell was the coach telling me to take a pitch? Like I was going to get anything to swing at anyway! But I took it. I fought it every step of the way. My entire body screamed to let the pitch go by, but no, the coach signaled “take it.” So I swung at a high, outside ball — missing it completely — and struck out. Only then, looking at my coach’s face, and the faces of all my team-mates, did I realize that “taking a pitch” meant letting it go by. Ah, that moment was a glorious mix of adolescent insecurity, adolescent ruthlessness and America’s favorite past time: Little League Baseball. Nothing like it.

More on The Baseball Box Prophecy and my adolescent baseball career on my next post…

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4 thoughts on “Batter Up: Son No. 6

  1. Stop. You’re bringing back my traumatizing bonnetball memories from my childhood. My poor dad at every game to cheer me on. Me striking out at every single at bat. My position was “rover” which I have since learned is a made-up position for the worst kid on the team. One time I miraculously got on base because I was walked, only to get out by over-running 2nd base. No one ever told me that first base was the only one you could over-run! Sigh. Now who needs therapy?

  2. OMG! Bonnet Ball! I had even forgotten the term. The term alone is demoralizing. Who knew there were so many of us little league lamenters out there, right?

  3. Pingback: Batter Up: Son No. 6… Enough About Me « Squelching Al's Exuberance

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