Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Touch 'Em All

Aside from the exorbitant contracts and the existence of Barry Bonds, the home run is perhaps the most selfish aspect of America's national pastime. Rabid pursuit of the long ball has brought some players to the heights of Cooperstown while forever tainting the careers of others.

Nevertheless, they say you never forget your first home run. I'm actually not sure who said that, but it was probably Bob Costas. I know I'll never forget mine. It came four days ago.
The thermometer was topping 90 degrees at suburban Chino Field and my 16-inch softball team had already won the first game of our doubleheader. We had a two-run lead in the third inning and I had been uncharacteristically hitting the cover off of the ball all afternoon.

Being a Southpaw, I stepped into the batter's box and was greeted by the usual cat-calls of "Lefty!" and "Move Over!", as the opposing team shifted their defense to account for my ilk's peculiar penchant for pulling the ball to right field. While lefties are often treated like lepers in grade school classes and at the dinner table ("Stop bumping my elbow!"), left-handedness is decidedly respected between the white lines of the baseball field.

My offensive strategy in softball consists of swinging at the first pitch every time I step up to the plate. I can't control it. I tell myself that I'm going to let this one go by or only swing if it's perfect, but it doesn't matter. The slowly pitched softball always takes on the proportions of a watermelon and I can't resist taking a hack.

I should have known this at-bat would be my date with destiny when I managed to let the first pitch go by without swinging. The second pitch was a watermelon though, and I swung with all my might. Living up to my lefty hype, the ball sailed directly to right-center field, bouncing between the fielders who had clearly not heard that I was a "Lefty!" and thus they should "Move Over!"

The rest of the action is somewhat of a blur. Being a public park, Chino Field has no fence, so a home run is promised to no one and the traditional home run trot is completely out of the question. I knew this ball had the distance for a double, but I had underestimated the ineptitude of the defense. As I rounded second, I heard my teammates yelling for me to keep going. As I came into third, I saw the cut-off man throwing the ball toward the infield and I motored home. The throw home sailed to the backstop fence and I crossed the plate.

This was momentous. In seven-plus years of youth baseball, I had never scaled these heights and always dreamt of the day that I would serve as my own RBI. Now the prophecy had been fulfilled and I felt like an 11-year-old again when I returned to the dugout for a round of high-fives.

I can now die a happy man, having felt like a true jock for one majestic trip around the bases.

No comments: