Wednesday, March 19, 2014
SOLSC 19 of 31 - Slices of Baseball
Join me this month as I write a slice of my life each day this March and join many others sharing slices at twowritingteachers.com. My students will also be slicing this month and you can find links to their daily blogs HERE.
In Arizona and Florida, where green grass is being freshly cut, the air is filled with infield chatter, the smack of horsehide on leather, and the crack of the bat of a new hero. It's been seventeen years since I started my final spring training as a baseball player during my senior year in college. I was by no means a great player, but I had some perfect baseball moments I can still see with the detail of the stitches on the ball of a hanging change-up.
Five years old playing first base on my YMCA T-ball team. Our uniforms were an ugly beige but we had a 1-2-3 inning in the days before the entire team got to bat, no matter what. Two weak grounders to the pitcher, two throws to me at first base. Then a lefty hit a hard grounder to me that I scooped and raced to the bag. The adult in charge of the league told my coach to move me to another position for the rest of the game.
Senior year in high school on a sunny day in Eagle, Colorado. 1-0 count. Before the next pitch, I waited in the box and SAW the next pitch coming in my mind; the swing, the contact, the perfect moment. It was deja vu when the pitcher actually went into his windup and let go of the ball. My first and only home run in high school was a no doubter as it soared over the right field fence, silhouetted against a perfect blue sky.
Junior year of college against the toughest lefty I've ever faced. The first two fastballs thunked the catcher's mitt and I never even saw them, much less thought about swinging. As a lefty batter, it felt like the pitches were coming from behind my head. Then the gift. He tried to snap a slow curve off, that started at my head and was supposed to drop into the strike zone while I ducked out of the way. Instead, it just slowly floated and spun at my chin. I was swinging for a fastball, made an in-swing adjustment and made perfect, one-handed contact while bailing out of the way. As I stumbled out of the box, I saw the ball on a majestic arc down the right field line, my teammates rising in disbelief at the sound of unexpected solid contact. As the ball hit off the chain-link fence, I tripped over first base and sprawled on the ground. Scrambling to my feet, I blundered towards second, flopped on the base a split second before the tag was applied, turning a sure triple into the most awkward double ever. For my second at-bat, I dragged a perfect bunt down the first base line on the first pitch that caught everyone off guard. I ended up two-for-two against that scary lefty even though I was thoroughly overmatched.
Other vivid memories include:
The diving catch on left-center field to start the game against Knox College at home.
Getting a line drive single over the second baseman on a slider in my first college at-bat.
My only college home run against Knox College my junior year.
The hardest ball I ever hit. It was so low over the infield that the pitcher reached for it and yet it went over the center fielder's head and I strode into third with an easy triple (plus I didn't trip going around first base).
Warming up for a double-header during a partial eclipse and how odd the light was. We used the holes in the webbing of our gloves to cast shadows on the lineup card that showed the moon's bite out of the sun.
No other sport eases into it's season in such a way, and these slices of my baseball life well up in my brain every year at this time.