Baseball Is Back

Unless you really love baseball, you probably have thoughts like, “Does the batter have to tighten the Velcro on his gloves after every pitch?”  Maybe you think, “Will the pitcher quit messing around and just throw the pitch?”  If a lot of runs are scored, maybe you are sitting on those uncomfortable bleachers thinking, “Will this game ever end.”

My answer to these questions is simple, its baseball and it’s back!  I do, however, agree that Velcro should be banned from gloves.  Use snaps, Velcro just isn’t necessary.  The pitchers at Maryville High School do pitch quickly and with good pitching and good defense, the 15-14 marathons are avoided.

The high school season is in full swing, even if we haven’t even reached April yet.  Almost any day, you can find one of the Maryville teams playing somewhere.  The bleachers are uncomfortable so come prepared.

My son and I got an early start on baseball.  Sam restarted his pitching lesson in January with Jamie Bluma.  Jamie was a hot prospect for the Royals until he had a shoulder injury.  That ended his playing career, but not his life in baseball.  You can’t spend time with Jamie without getting a great baseball fix.  He’s got more stories than Yogi Berra.

I knew baseball had overtaken my life when lack of sleep hit me last week and the first three days of this week.  I really got into the World Baseball Classic.  After a couple of close calls, the USA team, with Royals Danny Duffy and Eric Hosmer playing great, made it all the way to championship round in Los Angeles.

Most of their final games were nail bitters, except the championship game with Puerto Rico.  Despite winning easily, I was glued to the television well past midnight.  Baseball was back.

The Royals are about ready to head north, too.  Really far north, where they will open their season against the Minnesota Twins.  Thank goodness, all three games are afternoon games.  Then they head to Houston where there is a dome.  Finally, they come home April 10 against the Athletics.  We may need sunscreen by that time.

More importantly, all the kid’s teams are firing up.  Park and Rec will organize their teams, coaches, and leagues.  Some youngsters will head for traveling teams and find a way to spend a lot of their parents’ money.  It’ll be great taking a drive and seeing all the field lights burning all over Nodaway County.

I think some of the best memories I have as a kid was playing baseball.  Usually the first sign of baseball would be when baseball cards starting showing up at Rehm’s Tavern in my hometown of Clatonia, Nebraska.

I had to wait for the grass to start growing before I could start buying baseball cards.  I could almost buy out Rehm’s Tavern of baseball cards with the $1.50 I earned by mowing a lawn.  A pack of five cards and a big piece of bubble gum cost five cents.

Clatonia only had 220 souls living within its boundaries back in the 1960’s, but there were lots of kids in town.  There were also two pastures owned by Myron Roker right in the middle of town.  He would also have a few cattle grazing in one or both of the pastures.

They also made for perfect baseball fields.  Sure there were flaws, but a slight incline on the north field and a very short porch in left field of the south field.  Both fields were cover in dandelions so logically we named them Dandelion Park.  We might have to avoid recently dropped cow pies, but the dried out ones made for good bases.

The only person who loved baseball as much as me was Myron’s son, Bobbie.  He had a brother a couple of years older, Billy.  I have a younger brother by just a year and a half, so we could play the Rokers v the Steinmeyers.

However, a lot of times it would just be Bobbie v me.  Our brothers did not have the passion for baseball like Bobbie and I did.  Many times, my mother wondered what a certain smell was in the house when my Keds sneakers had fresh cow pie caught in the treads.

When Little League came around, we had to depend on some local guy to coach us.  It seemed none of our parents wanted to take on the task.  The one I remember the most was a guy who was the local drunk.  He was the only one to volunteer.  I’m amazed we made it through that season without him passing out while coaching third base.

Baseball can be humbling at times.  All the kids within three years of each other gathered to play the Clatonia World Series.  There were exactly 18 kids.  There were 19, but one decided his baseball skills would be embarrassing.  He was right and he avoided the ultimate embarrassment of being selected last.

The World Series would go seven games.  In the deciding game, it came down to the bottom of the ninth with the score tied.  With a runner on third with one out. My brother, Roger, stood at the plate.  Roger was little for his age and didn’t have much power.

I didn’t expect a happy outcome.  Roger grounded to the pitcher and the runner from third bolted home.  The pitcher apparently wasn’t bright about baseball.  Instead of throwing the winning run out at home, he threw it to first to get Roger out.  That was only the second out and his little dribbler to the pitcher was a game winner.

The whole team erupted and carried Roger off the fields on their shoulders.  I chose not to take part of the wild celebration.  Here I was possessed by baseball.  I would forget girls for years because of baseball.  My brother could take it or leave it and here he was on everyone’s shoulders, the hero.

I will never forget this totally unfair act.  I should know that baseball can humble anyone.  The sad thing is my brother, to this day, doesn’t remember that game.  It’s just not fair.  Doesn’t matter, I still love baseball.  Baseball is back.


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