Hit the Ball, Boys!

Bob Vic Rich baseball mitts.jpg

My dear friend Joan loves, loves, lovesbaseball with a devoted intensity and a frosted glass of beer in hand.  During a recent phone conversation, I was encouraging her to blog about her love of baseball - she has so many remarkable insights.  Within that conversation, I mentioned that "even though I am not an avid baseball fan….”,and I continued onto another subject.

I started thinking about it, though - my life is not void of baseball altogether. Baseball has been part of my life.  It was easy to enjoy baseball growing up in Minnesota and Iowa. 

When I was five, living in St. Paul, MN, my dad backed out of our garage via the alley in his classic black VW Beetle with my brothers in the back seat going to a Twinsgame. I wanted so badly to go with them - so I chased them down the alley, screaming, “I want to go, I want to go!”.

 (Picture this alley: where this curly headed brunette in her floral overalls stomped in her rain-boots every time it hailed during a Midwest summer thunder-storm until the age of 8, when we moved away…and my daughter wonders where her love of puddle jumping came from).

The VW bug stopped, backed up, and I hopped in, squeezing comfortably between the protection of my two brothers. Dad alerted Mom as to my whereabouts - and off we went. I had a wonderful time at the game - not sure if it was the hotdogs, being with my brothers, watching the game here and there, or adrenaline from the roar of the crowd. 

Both my brothers played ball while growing up and at each of their games, I would stand leaning against the very front bleacher (not too far from Mom) while yelling “Hit the ball, boys!”, “Hit a homerun!”, and “Way to hit the ball!”.

In middle school, many afternoons you’d find me in the front yard, throwing the ball back and forth with my high-school aged brother, Rich.  I truly dislike the terminology “you throw like a girl,” but yes, I throw like a girl, and I am damn good at it.I know how to stand properly and thrust my whole body into the throw, and I can catch pretty damn well too.  Passing the long-distance throw in the Presidential Fitness Test was never a problem for me.

Rich describes his passionate love of baseball from his younger days: 

“One summer day all of my friends were out of town or busy.  I was moping around the house and Mom asked me what was wrong. I told her there was nobody to play catch with, and she said, “I’ll play catch with you,” and I snickered.  Somewhat upset with my reaction, mom pulled me out to the alley, towing two gloves and a ball.  I threw the ball at her softly, not thinking she could catch.  She caught it and threw a hard strike at me; harder than my friends could throw.  I was so proud of her. My eyes sparkled and I threw a hard pitch back at her which easily handled.   I remember not wanting to stop.  Good lesson - don’t underestimate women.” 

My take on his story? I bet I learned to throw and catch a baseball from my mom! Yay Mom!

My dad’s cousin Homer, the spitting image of President Jimmy Carter, coached baseball in Iowa until he hit a very elderly age where could no longer walk. There is even a tournament named after him. He was easy to be proud of, even from a long distance, once my family moved to the west coast. My dad’s other cousin, Florence (my soul mate), a University of Iowa grad,followed her team around the country. One of my grandfathers would not allow anyone to talk aloud in the same room as where he watched baseball on TV; he wanted to capture every word and would not allow distractions.And more family…my nephews played and played well.

Going to a baseball game now is not high priority for me, mainly because I am hyper focused on my art - I want to spend every spare dime I have on art supplies.  And to get “back in the game,”I’d have to spend a bit of time catching up with ball player names and stats…well, it would help to understand how the stats work! Maybe Joan can help me out with that aspect…. I’dlove tolearnthe mathematics of baseball stats from the viewpoint of a knowledgeable and enthusiastic woman. 

In the meantime, I will be pleased as punch to watch baseball movies - MoneyballField of Dreams, and A League of Their Own.

Thanks for going down my baseball memory lane with me.