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Summertime baseball memories | Reporter's Notebook
Talking to Andy Cosgrove about his upcoming career as a catcher for the Huskies reminded me of my own days playing baseball.
T-ball and coach pitch, that is.
Why I never went beyond that and into the pony or mustang leagues, I’ve never quite figured out. Perhaps it never occurred to me to nag my parents to sign me up and drag me to yet another sports practice, games, and buy the uniforms.
Growing up on kid baseball movies like “The Sandlot” and “Rookie of the Year,” as well as the requisite pick-up games of baseball during the summer, I found many aspects of the game enjoyable. But the best moments were when I got up to bat. Whether it was T-ball or coach pitch, I’d approach the plate, tap my shoes with the bat, raise my chin confidently, and “call my shot” as I pointed towards center field. It left my parents understandably embarrassed, until I sent that ball soaring out of the tiny field we played on and over into another game.
I also had this weird ritual where I would throw the bat behind me as hard as I could before I dashed up to first base, which I stopped after I nearly took out the catcher.
Of course, I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry if I had known the game was rigged. Due to some unwritten code, kids were not allowed to hit home runs, which meant they could go no further than third base.
My initial response to this rule: “You’re killing me, Smalls!”
I have no idea if this rule is still implemented, or if this was a local statute. I hope it was local. I know those who enforce such rules mean well, but do they have any idea how big of a deal it is for a kid to be able to run all the bases and then make a completely unnecessary slide across home and possibly take out of the catcher at the same time?
For kids like me, whose baseball career was confined to having a ball tossed to them underhand, it’s the one moment in his half-grown adult life that he will be able to feel like a professional player, in the big leagues, playing under the big lights, in the big stadium.
The players on a kid’s team also determine how bearable this denial of an actual home run can be. Not only was I the only second grader on one of my coach pitch teams, with the rest of the kids being first graders well below me on the juvenile social caste system, but many of the players were what I refer to as “draftees,” and not in the athletic sense. They’re the ones whose parents decided that they needed to stop playing Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis and get some fresh air, sunshine and a few scraped knees. Needless to say, they had the mobility of a zombie and sucked the passion out of a game like Dracula. Or at least that’s what I told my parents after they ordered me to stop trying to play the outfield, short stop and second base all at the same time.
Let me put it this way: When we asked “Who’s on first?” and said “I don’t know is on third?” we were not quoting the classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine. We were being literal.
If being able to run all the bases after clobbering a ball out of a baseball field while smacking down on Big League Chew bubble gum and spitting out solidified sugar, arms raised in triumph as they slide across home base and then celebrate while screaming “I’m the Great Bambino!” isn’t an integral part of a kid’s life, then nothing is.
TJ Matrinell is a reporter for the Kirkland Reporter newspaper.