Back in the Spring of Things
Opening Day, April 6, is just a few days away. Here in Florida, we’re wrapping up a good month of spring training. If you’re a baseball fan, come to Florida in March. You can see a bevy of teams at a variety of ballparks within a short distance of one another.
Several weeks ago, during the frenzy of spring training and before the influx of travelers, my friend Emily and I spent the day at the Rays/Phillies game at Charlotte Sports Park, home of the Stone Crabs, in Port Charlotte. As luck would have it, the very next day my good friend Cass wrote a post as part of a link up, Around the Horn. I was hesitant to join myself, all this blogging stuff is too new, but I couldn’t resist the topic: favorite baseball memory.
If there’s one thing I’ve done all my life, it’s play ball. I still play, 31 years after my first t-ball game at Lyndon. The only reason I’m writing at this moment is because the game I had tonight was canceled.
So it’s pretty safe to say I have a bunch of baseball/softball memories.
I could tell you about the constant array of amazing catches I’ve had out in left field or that time I nailed the fence chasing after a home run; I had a chain-link shaped bruise wrapped around my eye for a week.
Or I could tell you about my time as a fast-pitch pitcher and how I was part of a lawsuit to force Kentucky high schools to offer fast-pitch ball. When I was a freshman, public schools only had slow-pitch teams, while most colleges played fast pitch, and it was difficult to get a scholarship outside the state.
I could tell you about the time my dad gave me license to say “fuck you” to a coach, twice, or about the weekends spent in the park practicing my pitches, or the time I said “fuck you” to my pitching coach and got grounded by my dad.
I could tell you about watching Redbirds games in Louisville and that time they gave away full-size Louisville Sluggers to the kids in the crowd, because that’s Louisville.
I could tell you about the countless Braves games I watched with my family at the beach house in South Carolina or the time my Papa made me and my brother stay up past midnight, when we were clearly not old enough to do so, because the Braves might win in the 17th inning.
I could tell you about all the Rays games I’ve been to and how an air-conditioned stadium in Florida in August is a really good thing, even if the team thinks it’s a really bad stadium, or about the time my South African mother-in-law, with her perfectly coiffed hair, learned to heckle and managed to startle most of the opposing team’s bullpen.
But my favorite baseball memory isn’t any of those. It’s the story of how my Granny, a preacher’s daughter, used to hang over the fence and watch my Papa play ball behind the church. And how they sneaked away one day after a game, got married, then went home to their parents’ houses, without telling anyone what they had done. And how 69 years later my Papa, even though he was wrecked by Alzheimer’s and didn’t know his left from his right, looked up at me and said, “How’s Florida, buddy? You still playing ball?”
And I was.