It was a good
day for baseball
Monday, August 12, 2013 3:50 AM
The sun beckoned me. Shafts of light cutting through the Venetian blinds issued one clear message: get your shoes on and go outside. NOW!
Maybe that was mother's voice, but no matter, I listened. I would always be immediately grateful I had, once the energy coursing through the air landed on my skin. Warmth, light and energy were the perfect summertime combination. As I have felt those same feelings this summer, my mind has been called back to an earlier day in Randall, Minn.
The shoes I wore around the house were well worn. My family called them "everyday" shoes. There was no telling how many miles had been trod or cycled with those rubber soles taking the beating the entire way. Yet they held together by the laces and still managed to rub holes in the heels of my crew socks.
Somewhere between being called outside and actually being outside was a variety of highly-practiced and well-executed activities. Running up the stairs two at a time, ramming my feet into those already laced shoes, crashing through the door, and slamming the door shut behind me as I bounded down wooden stairs that echoed sharp reports throughout the garage were all maneuvers I had done countless times before.
Once I was outside, I needed to decide what I would do. The crumbling cardboard box with all the sports balls in it was at the back of the garage. The bats were lined up neatly between the two-by-fours and a motley collection of baseballs, tennis balls and baseball-shaped balls were in a bag hanging on a stud-planted nail. We used wood bats and not those blasphemous aluminum bats.
Yes, today was a ball-hitting sort of day.
A Little Tikes tee sat in the garage, but I had no need for that. No, I pitched to myself. After selecting my bat and taking the bag of balls off the hook, I made my way to the front of the house. Here is where I began to play a more dangerous game than just hitting flies.
Our yard was a good 50 yards long with a dirt driveway separating an east garden and the west lawn. At least from my childhood memory it seemed like the yard was 50 yards. In fact, it felt like longer. Either it was that long or I was just extremely slow when I ran. It could have been a mixture of both. Anyway, the yard ran up to a concrete sidewalk in front of our house. In between the concrete and house was a flower garden. The largest panel of windows in our house was located in that vicinity.
Flower garden, windows and baseballs were a deadly combination and I do not remember how many times my mother would let me know exactly that. Usually it was whenever I foul-tipped one into the window. She would tell me to stand farther down on the lawn. A reasonable suggestion? Not at all. With trepidation, I would step a foot from the sidewalk onto the lawn. I had done this many times before; the lawn was noticeable barer here. A foot made all the difference! I was now one foot closer to hitting the ball clear into the ditch across the street. There was poison ivy waiting for me there.
Then, I hit a foul-tip in the flower garden. Now, what did I do? I rummaged through the petunias and marigolds, hoping to find my ball before I noticed someone else staring at me through the window above my head.
The door slammed. My brother emerged. Great, I groaned, he'll tell me to catch as he hits. "Hey, go catch while I hit," he said.
Jogging down to the end of the driveway I turned around and squared up just as he drove a liner that short-hopped as I reached out to snag it. Checking for a bloody-nose, I angrily threw the ball back to my brother while yelling about the unfairness of the world.
The next ball was hit into the air, a lazy can-of-corn. I ran in and caught it, feeling slightly vindicated. As I did a cocky skip backward, my brother took a hefty cut and launched a moon shot. My skip quickly faltered and I turned to watch the ball's arc land squarely on the road. I panicked as I realized where the ball was heading. Sprinting, I tried to catch up as the ball rolled teasingly away from me. Straining, I hurtled into the street and reached in vain as the ball vanished into the ditch. The poison ivy was laughing at me.
I threw my hands up in the air. "You have to get it," my voice echoed to my brother. Negative. The game ended. Our last good baseball lost to the ditch's maw. At least until the city cut the weeds down.