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A Baseball Diamond In The Rough.

April 17, 2008

N played baseball as a teen. He was good, really good, had so much potential that at 17 he tried out for the Minors and passed all the cuts required to be accepted into the league.

The first cut was for speed:

How fast you can get to first base.

How fast you can round the bases. That cut took out 40% of the young men right there.

The second cut was for defense:

When the ball is hit, what is your defensive range. That is how fast can you move laterally, backwards and forwards.

Charging a ground ball: when the ball is hit on the ground you’re asked to charge it and field it on the hop; in other words running towards the oncoming ball, catching it and throwing it to first base.

Catching on the fly (caught before it hits the ground), a baseball hit behind you, or over your shoulder.

Throwing: how fast can you throw the ball, how far can you throw it, and how accurately.

From the position of playing third base, can you work a double play ( one hit gets two players out).

The third cut was for batting:

Can you hit a curve ball?

Can you hit inside pitching? (The ball comes close to the batter; it’s a test of bat speed.) Will the batter make a mistake by chasing high, outside fast balls? (A high outside fast ball is a pitch that has a low percentage of success.) Is the batter prone to making the mistake of swinging at such a pitch.

Being under the age of 18, N required the signature of a parent in order for him to sign up, and with that idea in mind he ran home contract in hand, flung open the front door with a, “Ma, guess what!” She quietly examined the papers then asked him when he thought he’d have the time to play this, er baseball. To which N excitedly announced that he would be able to play all the time as he was going to drop out of high school. Apparently his mother had different plans for her son and quitting school was not in the cards – especially for something that was just a game. “Just a game!” N cried.

This is not N, although I’m sure he looked (almost) as good.

Fast forward a few decades to a recent afternoon when N and I were sitting listening to a CD of (mostly) humorous baseball stories. N, now a newly retired physician (he did his Mother proud), has been thinking of playing on a baseball team for amateur, middle aged men. Men who’ve never been able to fulfill that part of their life’s dream, but still want a chance to play the game they so enjoyed in their youth. So there we were listening to the CD, when the interviewee mentioned a collection of baseball cards he’d owned since childhood that had recently been stolen and as a result of the theft learned the true value of the cards. He casually threw out some names and what those cards were worth today.
And this was way before his time.

N sat forward in the high back chair his eyes out on stalks. “I had that rookie Mickey Mantle card when I was a teen. And Stan Musial. And Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Herb Score and Lou Boudreau. And today they’re worth $xxxxxx.” “My Mother threw them out after I left for college! I can’t believe they’re that valuable now!”

It’s taken him a few days to forgive his Mother, long deceased, for throwing out “stuff” she thought was of no interest to anyone, least of all N. Of course a couple of decades ago they weren’t worth anywhere near what they’re worth today. I have a feeling that when N eventually joins the baseball team this summer, he’s going swing that bat with everything he’s got. And more.

Photos from Wikipedia.

Copyright © 2008

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