Thursday, April 3, 2014

into the outfield of dreams

Dad bought me this little baseball getup.  I still have it somewhere around the house.  My only baseball field was in my backyard.  I never was a little leaguer like many of my young friends.  I don't know why ~ perhaps I never asked.

My dad loved baseball.  He loved to go outside with his kids and play from his wooden stool.  We had a barrel of bats in the garage with ample gloves from which to choose.  I'm a southpaw, so dad made sure I had a glove just for me.  I guess I related family to baseball.  Everyone got to play from oldest down to youngest.  Everyone got to play.

In elementary school, R.A. Mitchell, I never played baseball with the rest of the kids during recess.  I'd often spend my free time on the bleachers pretending I was piloting a B-17 Flying Fortress, re-enacting scenes from the latest episode of 12 O'clock High.  I never thought to go out there and play ball.  Those kids, as young as they were at the time, seemed too serious about their sport.  It didn't look as fun as when the family played in our backyard.  Maybe that's why I never asked to play little league.

During one of my last days of elementary school I was made to play baseball.  The only time.  I couldn't get out of it.  It was one sixth grade class against the other sixth grade class.  The teachers were trying to make sure all the boys were in the game.  I spent most of the time in the dugout.  No one was about to let me get at the bat.  I was ganged up and threatened not to play.  I didn't want to play anyway.  I remember not wanting to sit in the dugout, on the cement slab seating. I'd rather be out there on the bleachers with my head in the clouds.

Time was running out and the bases were loaded.  It had been past my turn at bat several times.  Kids kept getting in front of me and keeping me in the dugout.  I just wanted out of the cage and out of the gate, into the school yard, away from the field.  The star players were arguing who was going to get to bat last.  One of the teachers came up and stopped the bickering and said it was my turn to bat.  I was told to take a bat and man the plate.  I heard a lot of angry voices around me.  One kid told the teacher that he knew I'd lose the game for them.  A couple of other of my classmates were yelling at me as I picked up a bat.  It was nerve-racking, but I'd swung at balls plenty of times before.  The teacher did not relent to the boys pleas.  She told the angry little mob that it was my turn to bat and that was that.  They all had plenty of chances, it was David's turn.

The bases were loaded and my team were not happy that the not so mighty David was at bat.  The first swing I swung and missed.  The second swing was a foul ball.  There was a boys voice in the background begging the teacher to please take me out of the game.  My eyes and thoughts focused on the next swing. 

I swung and made solid contact with the ball.  It went far out into the outfield and caught the boys out there off guard.  It was a good moment, just like in the movies.  All the boys ran home and the angry young voices turned into cheers.  I got plenty of pats on my back and praise from the very kids that had held me back.  I had never had a moment like that before or since.  No sooner had the game been won than the last school bell rang.  It was a fleeting moment of glory as all the children headed back into the school to grab their books to go home.  It was one heck of a way to start a Summer vacation.
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