Monday, June 30, 2014

Baseball, My Favorite Spectator Sport

I grew up in a pretty small town.  We had two stop lights, a k-12 school all on the same site, one full time policeman and the town team/high school/little league/pony league baseball field.  With everyone using the same field, it was busy all the time.  It was a pretty nice field too, and it was well lit for night games.  The town team played a lot at night.  There were bleachers on the first base side of the field and car parking on the third base side of the field.  People would sit in their cars all along the third base side of the field and when a good play was made or a home run hit everyone would honk their horns.  It wasn't uncommon for a car to get hit by a foul ball, but that didn't deter people from getting the best viewing parking spots.  Huck Zimmerman's mom ran the concession stand with her kids.  It wasn't much more than a mini storage shed with a flip up wood window and a couple of electrical outlets.  They served hotdogs, popcorn, candy bars, pop and coffee.

That baseball field was about fifty yards from the back of our house and my small bedroom had two nice sized windows and was on the second floor of the house.  At night it was like being at a baseball game.  The lights would light up my room.  With the windows up in the summer I could hear all the chatter of the players and the chears and moans of the fans.  When cars started honking I knew something good happened for the home team.  To this day I love to hear the "crack of the bat" when a ball gets hit.  

When I was a little older and finally got my own transistor radio, I'd have the Detroit Tigers on the radio at the same time as the local game was going on.  Listening to Ernie Harwell describe the game with the sounds from the local ball field was great.  Harwell was famous for the way he would call a game.  When a fan cought a ball he'd say " A fan from Gross Point cought the ball."  Every time it happen he'd say another town surrounding Detroit.  When a home run was hit he'd say "It's loooonnnggg gone!"  My favorite call was when someone was called for the third strike with out swinging.  He'd say " and he stood there like the house on the side of the road and watched it go bye."  Ernie Harwell is in The Baseball Hall of Fame now.  He was the greatest.

Growing up so close to the ball field, I was there all the time.  Watching games and even high school practices.  The high school coach gave me a broken bat from time to time.  I would take it home and my dad showed me how to fix them as long as they were not broken completely in two.  We would get some really small nails, Elmer's glue and electrical tape.  We would drill a little hole just a little shorter than the nail, squeeze some glue in the crack, put the nail in and the tape it up real good with the electrical tape.  When we were done, it was almost like new.  I know I never had to buy a bat to use, even though most of the ones we fixed were too big for me.  Sometimes I would take them back and show them to the coach.  He was probably just being nice, but he always acted like I had really done something good.

My baseball playing career started and pretty much ended in Little League.  I played three years in little league.  My first year I was terrible and was stuck playing right field.  I was a skinny little runt and hadn't developed many muscles.  It was a long season and the coach was a kid just a few years older than us.  He didn't have much patience with us.  My second year I had Huck Zimmerman as my coach.  Looking back, he was probably the best coach I ever had in any sport I played.  Huck wasn't a good student in school, but he was enthusiastic, kind, and just made me want to work hard and play better.  He moved me to first base and I started every game.  I actually made the all star team that year and was a pretty decent hitter.  I remember there was one kid I just couldn't hit.  His name was Chuck.  That kid had a really good fast ball and he struck me out every time except one.  That one time was the last game before the all star team was chosen.  He was pretty cocky and was trying to make me look bad.  He threw me a change up and I hit a home run off him to win the game.  I knew he was throwing the change up because he cocked his wrist differently and I was waiting on it.  Chuck and I were friends and that was the first time I could ever rub it in to him like he did to me so many times before.

Over the next winter, I started to grow taller and became a little more uncoordinated.  I tried out for Pony league, but got cut.  I was still young enough to play little league again, but was not nearly as good that year as the previous year.  The next summer I tried out for Pony League again and got cut again and thus ended my baseball career.  I didn't play baseball until I pitched slow pitch softball at college.  By then I was much bigger, stronger and a pretty good athlete.  I played soft ball until the age of thirty and loved it and was pretty good.  I was a pitcher the whole time and hit over 600, but couldn't hit a home run.  I just opened my stance and slapped the ball where there was a hole.  Strictly a singles hitter.  

Well now you know all about my illustrious baseball career.  The game I loved the most was the game I just coulded master as a teenager, but it's still the best game in the world.  Play Ball!!

This picture was my last year in little league.  I was the tall kid in the last row.  As you can see I had gone through quit a growth spirt and was way taller than the other kids.  Huck Zimmerman is on the far right.  I have really good memories of playing baseball as a young kid.

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