My interest in sports had some major roadblocks when I was growing up.
In the fourth grade,
we they would play baseball during recess time. They would pick teams based upon throwing a bat vertically and someone grabbing it near the end, then fist over fist until team members were chosen. I was usually last, of coarse, the fact that I didn’t know how to play or had ever received instructions about playing contributed to my status. I recall standing in left field, a borrowed glove on my left hand, when a ball was hit my way. I reacted by raising my right hand to catch it, only to have the burn of the ball cause me to drop it. A very embarrassing moment, but who remembers those things?
In the seventh grade, I tried to play football. I liked the game, I liked the uniform, I liked being with other guys, making physical contact. It was kind of like wresting with my brother, except they were closer to my size. But before we could play any games, we moved to another town, thus closing that door.
In high school, I wanted to play football again. But there was a $20.00 charge for insurance and the family just didn’t have it and little opportunity for me to earn it. Since I had played French horn in junior high, I joined the high school band as the only French horn player. They had a horn and a case and there was no additional cost. Oh, and they had a blue uniform with a plume in the hat! Who know who wore it before or after me.
But after I became a Christian, our church had a softball team and they would even let me play for them. At the time, I was 26 years old, 5′-11 and 250 pounds of “flushtration” to quote wrestling legend Junk Yard Dog.
I had met most of the team when I was recruited to go to Falls Creek youth camp, after being redeemed only six months. I didn’t know anything about working with youth, so I did what my brother did with me, I would wrestle with them, hanging them over the rafters of the church cabin’s front porch.
I was assigned being the catcher. I’m claiming my arthritis now is a result of squatting behind home plate for those many games. That’s right, I’m playing the “ol’ sports injury” card.
The time I spent with the guys practicing and playing the games, brought us closer together, which was something that I had never experience before and I liked it. Many of those friendships carry on today.
I had eventually became their Sunday school teacher and later, their College and Career teacher. I was especially proud of them, when in the heat of battle of a game, I saw them implementing the things I tried to teach them in the classroom. On the whole, they demonstrated good sportsmanship. And that was not easy.
In the church league, we played other Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Church of Christ and Catholic churches. Many of them had very good teams and were very competitive. I was also amazed when we played a Catholic church or they were on the diamond next to us, because their ice chest contents were different them ours, they had beer!
I like to bat! I walked to the plate with the bat grasped with my left hand, like a club. I didn’t try for home runs, but my goal was to hit it so hard, that whoever tried to stop it, knew it had some heat. I guess it was my revenge from the fourth grade.
I remember one incident that I wanted to mention. I was catching, someone hit to the left field. The guy on second headed to third base. His third base coach indicated for him to stop at third, but he had taken a quick look over his right shoulder and determined he could make it home. He didn’t count on the arm strength of our left fielder, who threw it all the way to home plate. I was standing with legs apart to allow him to slide. I caught the ball, seconds before he got to home, but instead of sliding, he crossed his arms and tried to knock the ball out of my glove by running into me.
The result was he did knock me off my feet, but when he hit me, he turned 180 degrees and lay face down on the third base line, knocked out! The umpire called him out, out! I felt some sympathy for him, because as he lay there, I saw he had a hearing aid on his ear. I guess it was turned off.
Now, almost forty years later, I was thinking how grateful I was to have played on that team. I was thankful for the opportunity to learn something about team sports that I had never had before and for being a part of the teams life and them being a part of my life. Thanks guys! I had a good time with you and I’m proud of who you have become!