Baseball was different. There was something about picking up the bat, gripping the handle, swinging it in the on-deck circle, resting it on my shoulder while waiting on the pitch, lifting it up and back in position to swing as the pitcher released the ball (“Swing hard!”).
Then running – that was the best part. Listening for the first base coach so my eyes could remain on the base, and the next one, as dad yelled “Keep comin’!”, looking for him while rounding second. There was a sense of cat-and-mouse, of hide-and-seek, all wrapped up in strategy to cross the plate.
Of rounding third and heading home. Scoring accomplished the batting.
Trotting to the dugout to the sounds of teammates, high-fives, and pats on the back. Those were the supreme rewards, equally rewarded by the unexpected catch in the field.
The dust in the infield, the grass beyond, the fence, the bleachers, the smell of popcorn. I took it all in. It was my habitat, the place I felt most safe with my thoughts, interrupted only by considering the next batter and where I needed to position myself.
The smell of my leather glove, the taste from chewing on the laces, pounding it with my fist to be sure it was ready for the next hit ball.
It was my only armor, it protected me as long as I was ready for the ball that had my name on it. I used it to fend off the hard drives that could knock me out. Or a tooth. Or give me a fat lip, a black eye, a bruised shoulder, or shin.
Disgusted by a dropped ball, or a near-miss after running as hard as I could towards the deep hit. Flubbing the ball thrown from third that hit the dirt just short of my outstretched glove.
The feeling of accomplishment on those throws that were scooped.
The ride home with a review of the game being replayed in my mind, hoping to learn from mistakes. And not just mine, but my teammates, too. It’s a team game.
Everyone happy after a win, and solemn after a loss, but learning capability, good or bad.
© 2022 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.