Friday, August 17, 2007

Throwback Friday: Little League Memories

My kids have spent this week at baseball camp, heading off each morning for at least seven hours of virtually non-stop fun - if you like baseball. And each day they've trudged home exhausted but eager to tell the stories of the day's exploits. Of course I'm prejudiced and believe that they're better than other kids their age.

Certainly in the throwing department some of that prejudice is warranted. We manage to play catch nearly every day (even in cold weather, when we take the game to the basement) and they have amazingly strong and accurate arms for 7- and 8-year old boys. Biases aside, I have no doubt that they're better than I was at that age. I've always been athletic, mind you, having absorbed the enthusiasm of parents who were involved in sports through high school and early adulthood. (My mother, an avid baseball fan to this day, was just as eager to play catch and pitch batting practice to me and my brother. And given my dad's early shoulder problems, she probably had the better arm!)

Watching me play ball, my boys are always full of questions about my time in Little League, sometimes straining my powers of recollection with queries about the minutiae of games I played some 30 years ago. I was a 1st baseman and pitcher, having made all-star teams thanks to an arm that could throw breaking pitches at an early age. So they want to know about how many games I won (I have no idea), how many strikeouts did I record (I have no idea), and whether people hit any home runs while I pitched (I have no idea). But at least they have photographs taken by my parents, showing me circa 1976 decked out in a scratchy double-knit uniform, ready to take on the world - albeit with that mid-70s long hair that screams to be cut above the ears. These photos prove that their ancient dad was indeed a ball player and my boys giggle every time the album of photos is pulled down for close inspection.

Although obsessed with baseball at that time, I was less serious about other sports. Still, I tried my hand at just about anything, from football to basketball. Soccer hadn't reached the South yet - at least not where I grew up - so we never recognized the pleasures of "the simple sport" like my boys do today. The only balls we kicked were in serious school playground kickball battles, fought in some cases over several days of recess when I was in fifth grade.

My older son has dreams of playing Major League baseball and the coaches who watch him note that he does have above average talent. Nevertheless, whether or not he can realize this elusive dream that prolongs the boyhoods of so many men, I hope that when he's my age he can still rediscover that connection to his inner 10-year old the way I do each time we play catch.

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