A baseball player’s dreamPublished 2:24pm Friday, May 24, 2013
Winning a state baseball championship means a lot more than the fulfillment of a Hartselle boy’s dream.
It’s pay back for the dads and coaches who have spent hours and hours on the practice field, from Little League to high school varsity, teaching the kids the skills of the game and pulling their hair when their protégés forget and mess up. It’s the upside of lying awake at night while mentally scouting the next opponent and worrying about the outcome of the game, or getting in a tizzy about an umpire’s call, or watching a tied game in the bottom of the seventh inning when the second baseman fails to cover first base on a bunt to the pitcher and the winning run scores.
And what about mom? She’ll no doubt be relieved that she won’t have to drop everything after a late night game and wash her son’s uniform for the next day’s game, or sit shivering under a wrap of blankets to see her son’s team play when the temperature is freezing and a north wind is blowing at 20 miles per hour.
My, how baseball has changed over the years with the advent of fenced playing fields, batting cages, private coaches, multiple uniforms and $400 aluminum bats.
Baseball, or hard ball, was played in pastures, complete with rocks, weeds, ruts and an occasional cow pile, when I was a boy growing up on the farm.
The ball was homemade, starting with a hard rubber jack stones ball and covered with layers and layers of cotton twine, which was recycled from guano sacks. Any stick of wood that could be gripped and swung back and forth was used as a bat. There were no fielder’s gloves or shoes with cleats. Neither was required. Catching was by bare hands and running was by bare feet.
A group of kids of all ages—brothers, sisters, cousins, friends—would assemble on a designated pasture, after church services and a fried chicken dinner. The two oldest, strongest and fastest players chose sides, identified imaginary boundaries and designated batting orders. A game could last two or three hours unless an argument erupted and some of the players got mad and went home, or the ball got water logged after being knocked into a branch in center field.
Even though the amenities of the game were few and far between back then, passion for the game was the same. What country boy didn’t go to bed after having a good day in the pasture and dream of playing real ball in the big leagues one day?
Clif Knight is a staff writer for the Hartselle Enquirer.