Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Play BALL! Closing and Opening Day

Take me out to a ball-park!
There is a sort of poetic cyclicity to the NCAA Div 1, hoops season ending this year on Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. Only 161 games to go til the Play-Offs!Baseball is my first love, the first sport I "played" on a real team: The first at which I fancied I might be good.
"Little League."
I shall never forget the smell of the "uniform" t-shirts with the sponsor's name spelled across the front. I guess it was not much unlike the smell of the wood alcohol from the ditto pages they fed us in school, but outside, on the field, it was different. I didn't take the thing off for the first week I had it. And the team cap! Worn just so, with the brim boxed and bent just so...sooo cool.
I was an outfielder. I have a canine gene and love to chase fly balls. I was quick of foot. and had a good eye for judging 'em, and I didn't usually drop any, and I had a strong (though erratic) arm.
I got a mitt when I was about seven, I guess. There was nothing but sandlot ball, before LL (chronologically) in my youth, in the early 50s.
Played a LOT of "catch" in the street. There was a park (Empett's Field!) with a primitive diamond not far from home, near the elementary school I attended. There, all the kids of a certain age--mebbe 8 to 10 or 11--in the neighborhood would gather, choose up sides, and play, weekends all day, and every day after school until it snowed; and in spring as soon as the snow melted and the ground firmed up, we were back.
This was in Cleveland, but I was born in Chicago--both baseball towns. I, however, was an ostentatious WhiteSox fan when we lived in Cleve-town, But my Dad did get us tickets to Game 3 of the '54 Series. Vic Wertz homered. The Giants swept.
My own baseball dreams were abruptly ended in the summer I was 12. That was when kids started firing curveballs around. This was the 50s, before batting helmets. I got beaned by a nasty kid a year older named Tommy Fleming that summer, and my competitive diamond days were done.
I played a little slow-pitch soft-ball over the years...on a bar-team in Renton with my housemate, who was 'the eternal gamer.' I can't move well enough these days to serve as a base.
But I love to watch it, both live and on the screen.
I go to one or two "Topes" games a year. They're the Triple A franchise club, nowadays for the Rockies, I think; usta be a Dodger club. I saw all the great Dodgers of the 70s when they played in Albuquerque for the "Dukes." That incredible infield: Garvey, Sachs, Russell, and Cey. Lasorda managed a couple of years, too. There was a drive-in, parking  lot on the bluff above the right-field wall where you could park and watch the game.
I usta collect ballparks in my conference attending days, (including Olympique Park in Montreal when there was still a team there). Got up to around 20, all told--not Camden Yard or the new park in Cleveland, either. I sold beer during Mariners games at the old Kingdome.
It's the springtime air, I can hear the smack of the ball on leather, the 'pock' of the bat, the cheers of the crowd...
That is to say, it's springtime, and I am ready to "Play Ball!"

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