April 21, 2003

The Crack Of The Bat,

The Crack Of The Bat, And The Eye Socket

Ah, the baseball season is upon us, and with it comes the yearly reminder that I am, always have been, and always will be, terrible at America's favorite pastime.

I'm one of those chosen individuals on earth who is meant to watch baseball rather than play it. Although I can grasp the big picture of the game, you know, who is winning and who is losing, if you put me in the game, with an actual glove or bat, chances are I'll make a monstrous error within five minutes, if not sooner.

Even when I played tee-ball, a game where players often ran the wrong direction around the bases and it wasn't uncommon for batters to miss the ball and instead whack the tee, with the home plate still attached, about three feet forward, I still considered myself a pretty awful player.

Although my father did his part to expose me to the world of baseball -- he bought me a glove, and he played catch with my regularly -- I was really never able to carry his fatherly lessons with me onto the actual baseball diamond. For some reason, a ground ball hit by anyone other than my father just seemed unpredictable and somewhat angry.

In retrospect, I think my poor baseball-playing ability stemmed primarily from my bowel-emptying fear of getting hit by a baseball. After stopping a hard ground ball with the palm of the glove rather than the webbing a couple of times, I had pretty much decided that getting hit by a baseball was something I should avoid at all costs.

Alas, try as I might, I couldn't prevent the strange magnetic attraction baseballs had to my little body. My first baseball-related injury occurred, of course, during a tee-ball game. For some reason that still escapes me, I was playing first base, and the biggest kid in my class, Joe, was up to bat, er, tee off, or whatever you call batting off a tee.

Joe was a farm boy who spent most of his days bench pressing sows, or so I believed. With a swing of his mighty bat, he smacked a hard grounder right at me. I crouched to retrieve the oncoming projectile, which was approaching so fast I think I saw flames. The ball hit my glove, rolled up my arm, and rammed smack center into my eye. The impact knocked me into a strange new world of glimmering stars and inky blackness, and eyewitness reports said that I dropped to my back like a felled oak.

When I came to, I assessed the situation, including the stinging pain all around my eye socket, and my newfound headache, and I let loose with a childhood wailing that I'm certain could be heard two towns away. I think every dog in the neighborhood was singing my mournful song before my parents were able to steer me into the backseat of the car and drive me home, where a bag of ice was placed on my tender eye.

The resulting black eye should have served as a dire testimonial to my lack of baseball ability, but I decided to tempt fate even further by playing little league a couple of years later.

I'm not sure why I chose to play little league, exactly, although I think it had a lot to do with the fact that, in my small town, it was generally expected that young boys should play little league.

Imagine my horror when I realized that, instead of a trusty tee from which I could safely swing at the hard little ball, there was someone actually throwing a ball at me, and the pitcher's accuracy, more often than not, was nowhere near the strike zone.

So, there I stood, bat in hand, waiting for the pitcher to throw the ball which, four out of five times, was almost guaranteed to hit me. I was never much good at hitting anything, but I'm pretty sure my left arm, at the end of the season, could easily absorb the impact of an Abrams tank round. I hated little league with a passion, and I only permitted myself to endure one year of the pointless punishment.

Softball, I thought, would provide a safer outlet for me to try my hand at the game. But, once again, I discovered that my hitting was only slightly better with a slow moving pitch rather than a fast one.

During the one year I was on a softball team, at the age of 23, I only hit one ball into the outfield. Almost all of my hits consisted of me nicking the ball about four inches and then running frantically to beat the throw to first. Our team had softball shirts specially made. On the back, they read, "Win Or Lose, We Booze." That pretty much summed up our season. I think we won one game, and that was because, I'm convinced, the other team was laughing so hard at me, they couldn't function.

So, enjoy this year's baseball season, but don't expect to see me anywhere on the field. But, if I'm out there, I should be easy to spot. I'll be the one getting hit repeatedly by the baseball.

Posted by Ryan at April 21, 2003 03:53 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!