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Time for pitchers and catchers to report to the back yard

Submitted by on Thursday, 22 January 2009 One Comment

Weather warm enough that we shed our jackets on the way home from school last week inspired  Big Guy to ask a version of the question flitting through my mind:

“How long until they’re playing baseball again?”

“How about today?”

Once he got the disappointment of realizing that meant going to the neighborhood park and not the ballpark, he ran into the house and grabbed a souvenir baseball from the last real game we’d gone to. “I’m ready.”

He certainly was.

Ten minutes into our session of catch, my stinging hand told me Big Guy also was ready to take his game to the next level. The next day, we went to buy gloves and a real bat.

The bat was a bit dicey in the early minutes as Big Guy swang enthusiastically in the sports-goods store, dang near decapitating his brother. It got even dicier a few hours later, when Big Guy started bouncing baseballs lightly off windows. I think our game needs to move back to the park.

He’s already a better hitter than I ever was, though that’s seriously grading on the curve. I couldn’t touch the Mendoza line with a 10-foot Louisville slugger. The coach in grade school took one look and quickly handed me a scorebook. “You keep stats,” she said. I was so bad that in two years I never even got the courtesy half inning all players get at the end of the season.

Yet, I loved the game, and in my basement at night I was a shortstop with a glove rivaling Dave Concepcion. Some kids had imaginary friends. I had an imaginary first baseman.

I’d bounce the Wiffle Ball repeatedly against the cinder-block walls, fielding it cleanly then gunning it to a teammate to complete the bang-bang double play and save the World Series.

Funny how history repeats itself, I thought as I watched Big Guy hit game-winning homeruns and throw knuckleball strike outs as soon as we got home with the gear. He even insisted on wearing an old souvenir Reds batting helmet as he played. I don’t  have the heart to tell him the Reds have been really, really awful for the better part of two decades.

Ay, but where’s the love for the glove, I wondered.

It took a while, because the glove was big, floppy and awkward. Eventually, though, he picked it up and eyed it tentatively. Maybe if Mom could use it to deprive him of hits, he should master it, too.

For the next half hour, he tossed the ball into the air and ran to catch it like a little Willie Mays. Then the whoops died and I heard a steady thump, thump, thump.

I looked outside to see Big Guy tossing a Wiffle Ball against the fence and trying to field it. He usually didn’t succeed but, hey, even Concepcion had to start somewhere.

“Whew!” he said a bit later. “My arm’s tired.”

Best to ease into these things, son. Opening Day’s still a bit off.

How long until pitchers and catchers report? As testimony to how much having kids changes your life, I’m not sure of the exact date, but it’s probably about three weeks off.

The important event, though: Tee ball signups, Feb. 9. Big Guy is ready.

Maybe he’ll turn out to be as wretched a player as I was. I’m fine with that. I’m not trying to create the next Barry Bonds – sans BALCO.

I’m simply trying to brainwash the kid into appreciating the beauty of the game. Looks like my evil plan is working.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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