Friday, January 22, 2010

Childhood Dreams

Yes, I once aspired to be a great Major League pitcher (that's me on the left, with my brother Craig). I would spend hours throwing a tennis ball against the backyard wall. All I got for it was a sore shoulder, but I had my dreams of fame and glory.
The truth was, I never got anywhere playing baseball. In fact, my poor parents watched for two long little league seasons, waiting for me to hit - or catch - the ball even once. That's right. I struggled for two years trying to get somewhere other than the bench and the deep, deep outer darkness of center field.
One day, the law of probabilities caught up with me in the batter's box. Down to my last strike, I did the usual thing, swinging half-blindly at yet another pitch. Somehow, the bat made contact, sending the ball sharply past the second baseman, into deep center. I stood there, watching like an awe-struck spectator. Suddenly a voice - maybe the coach or maybe my dad, or maybe my own inner voice - told me to do the sensible thing, "RUN!"
Rounding first, I glanced at the outfield but couldn't see where the ball was. The first base coach signalled me to take second, where I arrived standing up. The third base coach held both arms up, indicating that I should stop there, having just safely made my first-ever real-life hit. A DOUBLE, no less!
I stood there proudly for five or six seconds as the dust settled, then I heard the desperate second basemen yelling "Throw the ball! Throw the ball!" He not only sounded desperate, he looked desperate, wildly waving his glove at the center fielder. Another voice, this one definitely originating in my head, seemed to say, "You dummy, run to third!"
Which I did.
As I stepped off second base, I felt the unmistakable touch of the second baseman's leather glove sweeping quickly across my back. As the third base coach glared at me, I could only ask myself, "how did the ball get here so fast, all the way from center field?" Dumb, naive kid that I was, I had trusted a little too much in the second baseman's now questionable sense of honesty and fair play. I had been the unwitting victim of one of baseball's oldest tricks. I soon realized that the ball had arrived at second base only a second after I did, at which point the crafty second baseman deftly hid it in his waving glove.
So much for my baseball career. As it turned out, that was the only time I was ever to run the bases, an opportunity quickly ended by the heads-up instincts of an experienced opponent. So when I see an old picture like this one, I wonder what might have been. Probably not much, as baseball goes, but it was sure fun to dream.