Monday, July 20, 2009
Today, even though it was 95 degrees in the shade, my grandson and I took to the backyard and America's favorite past time, baseball! Armed with his "Star Wars" bat and ball the backyard was virtually a major league park. Well maybe not quite, but it was more than big enough to learn a little hand-eye coordination.
First Jeremy had to master the art of the grip. It really is not automatic. It takes a little bit of visualization and a lot of demonstration. Learning which hand goes on top and where the bat is held are two very important points in learning to swing the bat.
Second is the very uncomfortable adjustment to standing perpendicular to the pitcher. There is an urge to face the person throwing to you. The batting stance is an art that takes many forms as anyone who has watched professional ball players can testify. Pete Rose, before disgracing himself, was extremely successful even though he used an unconventional batting stance. Jeff Bagwell, a power hitter with the Houston Astros, spread his feet so wide you would think he would have no stride at all. To get Jeremy's feet pointed in the correct direction was as interesting as it was consistent with every pitch.
Third was the swing of the bat. Baseball teams spend hours, days, seasons, years trying to perfect the swing. One of the most difficult and athletic things a person can do is hit a round ball with a round bat while the ball is thrown almost directly at you. Jeremy loved to swing the bat. Sometimes he would be so excited and anxious that he would run at the ball in an effort to hit it.
Amazingly he actually hit the ball several times. His tomahawk swing was fast and always in the same place.
Hitting the ball was very exciting to him. He had a huge smile on his face, pleased with the result. Each time he hit the ball he would declare "I'm gonna hit it again"!
Many years have passed since I threw the baseball to my son. I had forgotten how sweet the feeling is to watch the eyes of one so young when they swing the bat in anticipation of hitting the ball. It brought back a flood of memories, not unlike the movie "Sandlot". Some young men grow up participating in many different activities. Baseball to those who live to play it has an addictive if not captivating hold on the imagination.
The smell of new leather, hot dogs, or grass can bring the ballpark into full view. Night games played in the Spring seemed to always have a special smell in the air. There is something about red dirt and green grass that makes me yearn for those days when the summer was spent with my closest friends doing what we loved to do most, playing baseball.