I love the sounds of baseball
“Yeah! Run, run, run runrunrunnnnnnn!”
I hear the sounds of baseball in my head and I can’t help but smile. The impact of the ball on bat, the “thoomp” of leather on leather as the globe meets the palm of a mitt, the cheers of spectators and the “pthew” of spit sunflower seed shells.
It’s been a little while since I had a child of my own playing on a ball team, and I honestly miss it. My kids’ level of involvement on the ball diamond ranged from “I’m not an athlete but I’m going to give it my best shot and I will not fail!” … to “Do my pigtails look pretty with this hat?”
There was also the “I’ve got the ball now, see if you can catch me” kid. In baseball. And the one who could throw the ball a mile … just not in the direction it was supposed to be thrown.
I remember the first ball glove, cap and baseball I bought for my firstborn son. I was so excited. He hadn’t asked for them, but I had decorated his room before he was born with bits of baseball decor, including collectible figurines and a basket of old baseballs.
The cap was an antique style, blue with white stripes. The glove was soft leather, brown and black. I had not gone out to buy those items, but when I saw them I could not resist. They were coming home with me.
When I got home, I showed them to my wife and she asked me why I bought them.
“Because I figured he’d love them,” I said.
She just looked at me for a second, then said, “He’s only 3 months old.”
Yeah, I got a little carried away. I admit, he played his first year of ball simply because Daddy signed him up and asked him to give it a shot. After his second year, we gave in and put us all out of our misery by letting him quit. Soccer was a much better fit for him, anyway.
The funny thing is I never played baseball. I mean, not on a real team. I played pick-up games of baseball and stickball, church softball and such. But I didn’t go out for the teams in school. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do it, really, but that I had such a short attention span and commitment to pretty much any activity.
I showed up for the Hickory High Bulldogs games — my no-longer-in-existence high school — on the field nestled between a highway and a pasture. I loved watching whoever happened to be playing at Chunky ball field, in my Newton County hometown. I watched the Chicago Cubs fairly often on TV. WGN out of Chicago came in clearer than most other stations at our house.
No one knows me as a huge baseball or softball fan. But I do love the sport. It is THE “American” sport.
I was probably more excited for ball practices and games than any of my children ever were. I loved to see them participating in a team sport, learning how to work well with others, how to deal with disappointment and how to deal with success. We made sure our children were on teams led by coaches who wanted to win, but more than that wanted the children to learn the game, play as good sports and enjoy themselves.
I’ve never been to a professional baseball game, and the only semi-pro game I attended that really sticks out in my mind is a game about which I remember very little. What I remember is the mascot for the Edmonton Trappers dancing with volunteers on top of the visiting team’s dugout — I was seated with friends just a few rows above it — and the odd layout of the field.
This was the summer of 1989, and the Trappers were playing at John Ducey Park, the only ballpark I have ever seen that had a railroad track run through the back of the outfield. The fence had been moved toward home plate so much that anyone who could get a fly ball to land near the fence in any other park could easily put it over the tracks in this one. When trains came through — at least twice during this game — nothing else could be heard over the whistles and rumbling.
It was a unique experience, to say the least.
Baseball and softball are to me all about popcorn, sunflower seeds, nachos, hotdogs and … oh, yeah, a game. I love to sit in my foldout chair, cheering for kids or adults I don’t know, enjoying the excitement of the game.
If I hadn’t committed to going out of town for an event this past weekend, I’d have tried to talk my wife into going to a community college softball game nearby. Watching games on TV or listening to them is fine, and I do that time to time, but those don’t come close to seeing the game firsthand, for me.
If you have the opportunity to go see a game in person this season, do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a Major League stadium or a neighborhood lot, at a community college or on the dirt and grass of backyard diamond, you could do a lot worse for entertainment.
Talk to a neighbor you haven’t seen in awhile. Yell with a stranger as a kid you don’t even know rounds third base.
Close your eyes and listen for that sound that is so easily recognizable as aluminum slaps a laced-up lobbed leather orb.
Brett Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-265-5307.