Friday, June 22, 2007

My Failed Jock Moment

Everyone is, or eventually becomes, a failed jock. There comes a point where what you want to do (win) doesn't happen, either through bad coaching, talent, motivation or luck, and you move on to something else. For me and baseball, that happened at age 12, and had a soundtrack.

For one bad season, I played Little League baseball in Northeast Philadelphia. For several months, I tried to overcome fear, insecurities and bad eyesight, with moments of success mixed in during weeks of misery. My team, buttressed by the classic talented jerk who was also the coach's kid, was the class in the league. I had some good games, but was soon relegated to deep outfield and the bottom of the lineup. My team won the championship, but by the time the season was over, I knew I wasn't going to be doing this again. Instead, I moved on to something much more worthy of blackmail.

This was particularly galling, I think, to my older brother, who was a pretty terrific athlete. A football star and divorce self-driven man of the house at age 12, he was in his late teens, driving a pimped-out van and providing overly aggressive encouragement for my feeble efforts. Fairly soon afterwards, he joined the Marines.

The second-place team was led by my childhood friend and rival, a ball of quickness and energy that was the star of his team *and* my height. He wasn't a bad guy, but he was much better than me and eliminated any size-based excuse for incompetence. On the day our teams played, he was pitching.

The first time I came up, there were men on base with two outs. The first pitch, which couldn't have been intentional given our skill levels, was at my head. When I got up, my rival was smiling, because hey, watching a spastic frienemy bail is probably damned funny.

The next pitch, I smoked a line drive that missed his head by a foot, driving in some runs. I stopped at second. By Grantha's Hammer, I was Avenged! Life was good.

My second at bat, we were threatening to break open the game. With the bases loaded, my rival again dusted me on the first pitch, but with no post-pitch smile this time. The next pitch, he nearly did. I missed his skull by inches on the hardest hit ball of my life.

The center fielder, possessing the innate sense of survival that you usually find in Little League, picked the ball up when it no longer appeared radioactive. I wound up at third. Teammates were screaming with joy, and I felt like Mike Schmidt -- hell, better. Schmidt didn't have my wheels to wind up on third, after all. Maybe this baseball thing was going to work out after all.

Another at bat produced a ground ball to the right side of the infield that I beat out for a single. (Not an uncommon experience in that league.) In the final at bat, with my brother clearly screaming for the home run that would produce my cycle, I put a ball into the gap and didn't stop running. Through the usual comedy of errors you'd find in a Little League game, much less a blowout, I touched home plate to the consternation of my coach, who was trying to get everyone to follow base running signs.

Screw that, Coach. I was hitting for the cycle!

After the final out was recorded, my brother carried me off on his shoulders, tears running down his face with pride. We piled into his van. "You hit for the cycle! That was awesome! I'm gonna play this song for you, you hear it, you remember it, that was so f***..." Et cetera. My brother is an enthusiastic guy.

He popped in his favorite tape that month, Cheap Trick's "Live at Budokan." He meant, I'm sure, to put in the side where his favorite song that week, "Nine O'Clock Tick Tock", was playing.

But, um, no.

The music started, I looked at his face, and it really wasn't what he meant to play... but it had started, so he just sung harder and pretended this is what he wanted.

Mama told me / Yes she told me / I'd meet girls like you
She also told me / stay away / you'll never know what you'll catch...

Yes, "Surrender" -- a fairly notorious little ditty of a kid discovering his parent doing the nasty to his Kiss records. The enthusiasm left the moment, and we drove home.

I remember, 25 years later, the color of the sky as the sun set on a perfect Philadelphia night. And I remember, looking up at that sky, thinking that if the song for my finest game ever in Little League was, well, this song... maybe that glorious major league career playing second for the Phillies wasn't going to happen.

Play me out, boys...

2 comments:

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

DMtShooter said...

For anyone who is curious... the above is comment spam, a bot, or someone enjoying FTT Desportes through a translation service.

The latter would be nice, but as the copy doesn't scan through Babelfish, we're not getting our hopes up. Moving on...