Baseball: The Glory Days

Aug 1 2011

Cai, last Saturday: “You can’t remember your sports, can you, Dad?”

Greg and Cai: Playin' Ball in 2011

Greg: “I can remember them.  I just choose not to.”

Well, at my request, my loving husband wrote the guest post below, reliving his baseball glory days for Cai’s… and all of our… benefit.  I hope you enjoy reading this at least half as much as I did.

 

Baseball: The Glory Days
by Greg

 

Some dads relive their athletic glory days in oft-repeated stories to their kids that grow more idyllic and grandiose with each telling.

Mine started tragi-comic, and remain firmly rooted to that spot on the story graph.

What is the “story graph?” you ask?  Here it is in ASCII art:

       | Brian's
       | Song
       |
       |                     ME
Pathos |
       |
       |
       |   AFV
       +-----------------------
               Humor
  • Brian’s Song – best tear-jerking football movie ever
  • AFV – “America’s Funniest Videos” guys getting hit in the “upper thigh” or “lower groin” by various objects

I wasn’t always picked last.  In fact, I don’t think I was ever picked last.  There was always one girl (the same one) who probably had about as little coordination as I did, but further lacked any understanding of the rules or mechanics of any sport.

I didn’t resent it (much).  I knew my limits, and, as I told my Junior High basketball coach, “I’d rather watch us win than play and lose.”

I did, however mostly enjoy my four or so years in Little League.

It turns out I’ve always had a one-track mind.  I discovered this in grade school when the coaches said “just keep your eye on the ball as you swing.”  I could do one or the other, but how in the world did anyone do both at once?  I wondered if the coaches had ever heard of Shroedinger’s Cat or the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Fielding was not much better, but a glove has a larger cross section than a bat, and an inelastic collision is easier to manage, in my experience, than an elastic one.

Coordination came back into play with field position, however.  I could chuck the ball a decent distance, but accuracy was an issue, as was reaction time.  Those parabolic arcs took some time to analyze in those years before I learned calculus.

So what does all that add up to?

A four-leaf-clover-per-inning rate that rivaled my OBP (on-base-percentage).

Mostly in right field and walks respectively.

It turns out four leaf clovers often appear in clumps and that early Little League pitchers have trouble throwing three strikes before they throw four balls.

My unimpressive fielding but sufficient throwing distance made me a good fit for right field, which also happened to have plenty of clover to help pass the time, as that’s the least busy of the nine positions at that age.

My inability to connect the bat to the ball led me to look at a lot of pitches and quickly realize my odds were better waiting for a walk than attempting to swing for a base hit.  Especially when I realized that I got a walk at least half the time, and no one got a hit more than about one third of the time.

I may have gone an entire season without swinging.  I know I went 0-for-my-career at the plate, but I scored regularly and stole plenty of bases.

I wasn’t fast, either, but again, 9-year-old boys don’t do so great most of the time throwing all the way across the field, home to second.

As we all got older, and some of the other boys got better, I started striking out more, and I had to at least try to swing with two strikes.

I’m sure I fouled a few balls off, but still no hits.

My final season, I finally connected solidly into fair territory a grand total of two times.  The first was a weak grounder easily fielded and thrown to first.  Another out.

The second time, I actually made it safely to first, but that’s when the ball finally came down and the second baseman caught it.  That’s right folks, a grand total of two balls put in play in fair territory in four years, neither of which left the infield nor resulted in hits.

When your sports career comes to a close, as it does for all athletes at some point, you have to find something to do with yourself for those few years you have left.

Some people knit.  I know knitters.  They do great work.

Other people collect stamps.  I don’t know anyone who does this, but I hear it can be quite fulfilling.

When I gave up on America’s national pastime, I found my own — exploring the uncharted territory that was the Encyclopedia Britannica.

What is there in “Q” anyway?

It turns out, quarks are in “Q.”

Quarks are even harder to find than four-leaf clovers.

And cooler.  They have direction and spin as defining characteristics.

I’ll bet quarks would be great at baseball.