Week 24: Hit a Baseball

I played Little League baseball for seven years. My absolute best day in Little League was when I was ten years old and had just finished tryouts for the AAA division. I had a banner season the year before, playing the best shortstop of my life and routinely making base hits in the lead-off position. My coach even nicknamed me Cal, in honor of my favorite shortstop (and baseball player, period), Cal Ripken, Jr. To say I was on cloud nine could not accurately describe my high off my success in the previous season. It was more like I was living out my own version of Rookie of the Year, only I didn’t need to break my arm to get awesome baseball skills.

After AAA tryouts, my mom got a call from two of the coaches in the league who wanted me on their respective teams, mentioning they both had scouted me in AA. I don’t remember the terms of either coach’s offer, but I’m sure it was something along the lines of extra Capri Sun and Gushers at every post-game pep talk. In my eyes, I was the hottest commodity West Springfield Little League had ever seen, and I was more than happy to be the face of the league in whatever advertisements or fundraisers they were preparing. I practically made space for the MVP trophy on my mantle.

glove and helmet

Let’s fast forward three years to the worst day of my baseball career. I was now a shell of the confident all-star who used to catch line drives while diving and stole second base routinely. I played in the Minors, Little League’s designation for the year before the good players join the high school team, and the rest discover the wonders of AIM and internet chat rooms. The other players on the team had gotten their growth spurt, whereas I still fit my same glove and pants from AAA. I remained a good fielder but my batting skills had deteriorated tremendously in the face of faster pitches and taller pitchers. I now found myself at the bottom of the line-up, and the coach would usually ask me to bunt rather than strike out looking. He neglected to tell me that the only thing more embarrassing than striking out is striking out while attempting to bunt.

I remember one of the last games of the season very clearly. It seems cliché, but, honest to blog, it was the bottom of the ninth with two outs, bases loaded, and we were down by one. Guess who gets to live out his own homage to “Casey at the Bat”? After watching nearly every pitch, I had a full count. This was it – the clutch moment to redeem this crummy season or to confirm that I had completely lost whatever talent I had for this sport. The pitch came right across the plate, so I swung for the fences and…I struck out. At least I swung this time. In the post-game pep talk, I wasn’t even able to hold back my hot tears as I barely listened to the coach’s half-hearted praise and sipped on a lukewarm Capri Sun. Even the juice boxes tasted worse than they did in the glory days. At the end of the season, I said goodbye to baseball forever.

Except I didn’t. After I found like-minded people in the theatre department, I still felt the need to prove that my burgeoning drama geek status didn’t preclude athletic prowess. When I started to date, I wanted to prove myself as an athlete, even though the girls I dated had certainly not become interested in me for my skills on the field or court. They need to see I’m the full package, I thought unwisely.

Want to read more? You’ve reached the end of the preview, but the full text of this entry and many more can be found in my book, BE A MAN: How I Spent One Year Drinking, Shaving, Farming, and Fathering My Way Toward Masculinity.

Click on the book to the left and you’ll find more information on how you can purchase the book in paperback and e-reader versions.