2007-06-15 / On Second Thought

Thirty- something speaks

Take me out to the ballgame
Mike Maddock

Mike Maddock

I'm not a farmer in Iowa with some issues to resolve with my father. So I don't expect to plow down some cornfields and construct a baseball Field of Dreams. I'm not a Natural either that had his career cut short by a crazy lady packing heat. I'm just a guy in his mid-thirties that spent the majority of his young life on a baseball field. I did think I was going to play shortstop for the New York Yankees when I was ten- years- old, but as I grew older and a whole lot of kids grew bigger and better than me, I was just happy to be a part of a team.

I haven't seen a fastball or a hard ground ball since I was 18. My older, less flexible and somewhat fatter body isn't prepared to step back on the diamond and start shagging fly balls, but I miss it. I don't miss letting a ground ball go through my legs to allow the winning run to cross the plate, or whiffing at a high fastball to end the game and any chance of a dramatic ninth inning comeback, but I do miss the days when the biggest decision of my life was what kind of drink to get after the game.

Do I just get a Coke, or go for the "suicide" and mix every soft drink in a cup like Brian Stubbs does for the other team?

Life was simpler then; not that untimely errors or strike- outs weren't devastating to a ten- year- old boy, and not that a good Coke mixed with Mello Yello, Dr. Pepper, and Sprite couldn't make all the difference, but the problems were easier to solve. We always had another game and another chance, and the worst thing we had to face was the threat of rain.

Well, I welcome the rain now as my priorities have shifted from the condition of the infield to the survival of my lawn. I don't so much worry how to hit a curve ball anymore as I do about how to pay a mortgage, plan for my kids' college expenses, and cover all the other bills. The troubles of youth are some of my fondest memories now. They prepared me for the life that was to come.

I got the chance to return the ball fields the other day. This time I was one of the grown- ups in the stands, instead of an anxious second baseman kicking pebbles away to avoid the inevitable bad hops on a little league field. My two daughters weren't playing. They'd rather slip on ballet shoes than cleats, and my son has a few years to go before he gets his first Louisville Slugger. A couple of the neighborhood kids and one of my younger cousins were playing in the season championship games that day.

The one thing I observed was that little league baseball hasn't changed much in 25 years, except I don't quite remember being as good as these kids seem to be now. They were throwing change- ups and hitting the ball to the opposite side of the field. We threw fast- balls and hit the ball where it went.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay for the whole game, but I did grab a suicide on the way out. It sure tasted better when I was 10.

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