Batter Up: Son No. 6… “A Trip to Bountiful”

When Cletis’ best friend, Elston, moves to a new neighborhood, it provides an interesting twist to the plot line of The Baseball Box Prophecy — the two end up facing each other down in a championship game. My move to Bountiful, UT in my mid-teens provided a plot line twist to my life, as well…

Church softball. Now, that may sound a little boring to the guy who lives and breathes pro baseball. But to the kid playing for Gerdes Turd Farms and desperately wants to have some fun and not worry about a small white orb speeding at him with intent to injure? Pure heaven. A big, fat softball that fills your entire mitt with a solid thud and is SO much easier to hit! Now THAT’S baseball — er, softball magic.

My brothers Russ and Mike and I played together on the Val Verda 5th Ward team (that’s Mormon-speak for a parish or chapter — so many wards/congregations = a stake; so many stakes = a region; so many regions = a district, and so on and so forth). I finally started to feel comfortable in my own skin — thanks to Mike and Russ. There’s something about playing on the same team as your brothers that boosts your confidence. It’s like I was given fielding skills by default, since I was their brother, and suddenly, I just HAD them. And I USED them. (Cletis and Elston mysteriously experienced the same fielding and hitting expertise with some expert coaching from the witch of Greenburg Junction) Maybe I had them all along and just couldn’t find them within my little league paranoia. But there I was playing first base! FIRST BASE! Russ on the mound, Mike in center field, and me on first! And I used to love it when Randall Honey (17 year-old) would fire a throw at me from third — the harder the better — during warm-ups and the games. I LIVED for that! It always seemed to surprise him that he never got one by me, as long as his throw was good. And that look of surprise was my inspiration. Bring it, Randall. Bring it. I think over time we may have won a few stake championships, but I can’t remember for sure. What I do remember, however, was the thrill of playing church ball under the lights at Mosquito Flats out by BARD, the city dump. Mom in the stands knitting an afghan. Val Verda 5th Ward has runners on base — me on third, Russ on first and Mike steps up to the plate. And then he brings us in. He always did. Every time.

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