Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rawhide and rosin

We have now come upon one of my favorite times of year. Spring has sprung yet the winter does not want to completely let go. What does that make you think of? Why baseball of course.

Baseball is deeply rooted within my immediate family. Both North of 50 and I grew up playing the game on old diamonds and on into high school. We happened to both be pitchers. I also stood my ground in the hot corner and at other infield positions. Graybeard also tried his hand at our national pastime though I'm not sure what position he played. I think he played the bench. The Moustache steered clear of the horsehide I do believe while Baby Sis did the same of the traditional softball.

There are many trappings of baseball that come to life this time of year. It is the dust of the infield, the smell of an oiled glove as you break it in, the feel of a wooden bat and chalk on your jersey. No self-respecting older player would even think of a metal bat. I understand today's game is different but a 'ping' just doesn't do it for me.

Baseball is a game of tradition and although it is a team game it is an individual contest. A pitcher is one-on-one against a batter. It is skill vs skill and a mental chess match. I won more than I lost. North of 50 was said to have great form on the mound in his day. I pitched with a great deal of heart, guile, fortitude, cunning, but enough of my unabashed modesty. Had I not hurt my throwing shoulder late in the season of my senior year I would have tried to pursue the game at the next level. Looking back, I don't think I would have gotten very far. I wasn't bad, just not better than the next level up.

I look forward each spring to the beginning of the season. Baseball is a marathon, too long at the pro level. Baseball shouldn't start and end with snow on the ground. As a kid I was a Dodger fan, then converted to a Red's fan with the coming of the Big Red Machine. I still follow the Dodgers to some extent but it is difficult when you can't listen to games live. Unfortunately the Reds aren't viable past the end of May year in and year out. North of 50 is a Yankees man. Ugh.

Our Esteemed Father would come to see my games at school and would inevitably yell something at me when things went bad. Sainted Mother only saw one game, the worst of my career. I hit a rather large batter in the mouth with a fastball. I thought I could put it high and tight and he wouldn't be able to get the bat up fast enough. I later learned it took over two years to get his mouth back to normal.

I wish kids still had the desire to go and play even a pick-up game. It just isn't something you see much any more. Everything is structured and I believe that takes away from learning the game. And for those parents who think you shouldn't keep score, learning to lose is part of the game. It is so in baseball and it is so in life.

Hope your favorite team does well, be it your pro team or your kid's team, except for the Yankees.


  1. It's baseball season at our house - Tina in Farm as a pitcher/first baseman and Meg in the Minors as a catcher/outfielder. Mike aged out of our league and is an assistant coach for Tina's team. Mom just confuses everyone with her left-handedness. Dad is the manager of Tina's team and helps with Meg's team as well as being the league photographer. Night games start right after Easter!

  2. I can at least say I was never a bandwagon jumper, as I have followed the Yankees since I was 5 or 6, seeing them in the World Series every year, and on tv almost every weekend. What, every WEEKEND? Whay about every night? Sorry, kids, baseball in The Olden Days was on tv just on the weekend, almost exclusively on Saturday, and the World Series (none of these wild card and multi-divisional champs!) was played during the day. I would rush home from school and plop down in front of the tube to watch the Series.

    Graybeard played first base in his day. The Stache played Little League, and used to be a Cardinals fan; now he's an Indians follower, since his proximity to Cleveland trumps his former rooting interest.

    Beloved Father saw exactly one of my games as well, and it was a summer league game in which I played third base. Naturally, I had a bad game that day, and heard his voice once or twice.

    While I had great form (I heard from others that Coach said that about me), I believe I peaked as a freshman, as it seemed that my velocity disappeared by my sophomore year. Tough thing for a pitcher. In my 4 years I had an overall winning record. I managed to get 2 letters in baseball, fond memories mostly.

  3. What about the year Mom won the City Championship as a coach for a boy's team? Is that why we had all that baseball equipment in the garage?

  4. That was the main reason all that stuff was in the garage, even though it was from the Oakwood years. If I recall correctly, they lost the championship game when a player for the Blue Sox stole home, which was supposedly against the rules.

  5. The Stache says she won it all, and said she was going out on top instead of doing it the following summer.

    I queried Graybeard, and he said they won their league, but lost in the championship against the winner of another league. He did not recall the steal of home, and thought they lost 4-2.

    So, everyone was a bit right on this one.