Baseball.

Dad playing baseball in Italy - 1981

Football and hockey don’t make sense to me, not the way baseball makes sense to me.  It’s fairly easy – hit the ball and run.  Singles,  doubles, and triples. Strikes,  balls, and outs. There’s a strike zone, foul balls, and walks. Pop-flies, grounders, and home runs.  Relief pitchers, relief catchers, and switch hitters.  Double-A, Triple-A, and Major Leagues. Games, series, and sweeps. Nine innings, extra innings, and double-headers.

It’s really easy.  I think.

My dad was a Little League player-turned-coach.  His early adulthood was spent on the baseball diamond with the kids or with his own local playing team.  He would toss the ball with my older brother and my younger brother, but never with me.  I guess because I’m a girl, he never thought I’d be interested in baseball.  Well, I was.  And I still am.

My parents probably gave up on me early on, after that incident in the outfield.  I must have been 5 or 6 years old and I was on a Little League team.  There is a significant reason I was placed in the outfield.  Two reasons, really, but only one of them was directly my problem to deal with.  First, little kids are unlikely to hit the ball too far so it’s best to keep your ace players close to the batter.  Second, outfielders are strategically placed waaaaay out there so as to not get in the way of those who might actually accomplish something.  Say, for instance, catch a ball and take a player out.

The coach put me so far out there that I couldn’t even hear anybody.  So another kid and I just started goofing off, laying down in the grass and making shapes out of the clouds, directing each other to look at the puffy one that looked a fire hydrant or the feathery one that looked like a broken pencil.  Well, he eventually fell asleep.  I got back up on my feet only to notice that I’d been sprawled over gargantuan ant hill.  Seconds later, I noticed that the ants, the biting kind, were all over me.

You might be saying to yourself, “Wow! That sucked!” and yes, you would be right.  That did suck.  Wanna know what else sucked?  How about somewhere in the cosmos it was decided that that moment a kid would actually hit a pop-fly ball in my direction.

Hmmm…dilemma: endure the pain of a million ant bites, catch the ball, and be the hero of the game OR OMG I’m covered in biting ants!!  It didn’t take long for me to make my decision. I mean, c’mon – there’s a reason kids are chucked out to the practically untouched airspace of the outfield. We suck at catching balls.  And, apparently, at being a team player.  My priority was the ants, not catching the flyball.

Um…hello.  These ants BITE.

I wasn’t invited back or else my parents didn’t think it was a good idea to take me back. And they’re probably right.  I had proven myself to be completely useless as a baseball player.  

So I was taken to roller skating classes where I did quite well. My coach took me to fun skating rinks and to competitions to see how the professionals performed.  I even go to participate in a skating exhibition at the Aviano Air Base air show.  Over time, I learned how to skate in pairs and successfully execute leaps and jumps, even fancy spins.

But I never stopped loving baseball.  I’ve got a good arm and eye for the ball. My batting skills were zilch because I did tend to flinch whenever the ball came near me.  Elle has inherited the gene, too.  This kid has been hitting the ball out of the park since she was about 5 or 6 years old.  Sadly, I can’t get her to join a Little League team. Elle’s too worried about causing a loss to the team, being responsible for something that would affect so many other people.  So she’s decided to stick with her gymnastics, a fairly individualized sport.  This way, she can gauge her own accomplishments by the inevitable progress one makes with regular practice and determination. 

But she loves baseball, too.  I guess that’s all anyone can ask for.

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About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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