A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.





Monday, April 11, 2011

The Great Sixth Grade Home Run

There's just something about recess in the spring.  The freedom of going outside and expending vast amounts of energy in the perfect springtime air, after spending most of the morning in the classroom staring out the window, was a wonderful feeling.  And in the spring, Waldron kids, like kids all over America, started thinking about baseball.

There were three sixth grade classrooms at Waldron.  My teacher was Mrs. Smoot; there was also Mrs. Bethel's class and Miss Chiles' class.  Somehow most of the members of those three classrooms managed to form into two teams for recess baseball.  Never mind that you had an outfield consisting of twelve or thirteen people; that was OK.  It did mean, however, that your times at bat were often few and far between.

My normal position was part of the mass of humanity in the outfield.  Let me state at the outset that I was not a particularly gifted athlete.  At the Weekly Reader Word Comprehension test, I was a champion.  But on the playground, I could often be found chasing after baseballs that had gotten past me, and then hurling them with all my might, often to another outfielder stationed closer to the action.

And, when I did get a chance to bat, the results were unspectacular.  Coupled with my minimal athleticism was the fact that I had just started wearing glasses and had not completely adjusted to my diminished peripheral vision.   So, the occasional hit that I did get lacked power, which resulted in the dreaded spectacle of seeing most of the twelve outfielders move in closer to the infield whenever I came up to bat. 

The games were ongoing, played in 20-30 minute segments from recess to recess.  The batting lineup was fixed in everyone's mind, so even though you might not come up to bat for several days, you always knew when it was getting close to your turn.  The score was inconsequential; I think we kept score mentally but no one really paid that much attention to it.

So it was on that particular spring day, that it was getting closer and closer to another at-bat for me.  I waited patiently in line as batters before me took their turns.  We were co-ed, and many of the girls were excellent players.  One by one, the kids before me in line had their turns, and finally, I was up.

I looked out over the field.  We played in the part of the playground that was just west and south of the Forrester building.  Later, the district built a building there that housed a new cafeteria and fourth grade classrooms, but at this time it was all playground.  And it wasn't very flat; the batter was stationed at the top of a slope near the building, and the outfield was lower and to the southeast.  I watched as the outfielders slowly crept up closer to me; obviously, their expectations of my success were moderate at best.  Of course, I understood, because MY expectations of my success were equally moderate.  A few pitches got by me; there were no called strikes but a foul ball did count as a strike.  But this day, I had no fouls, just a missed swing.  But I waited.  I'm not sure what I was waiting for, but I waited.  Finally, a pitch came that looked good, and I swung mightily.  But this time, instead of the "whish" sound that I was used to, I heard instead a reverberating "CRACK."  I had hit the ball perfectly; it powered off the bat like a rocket.  I immediately tossed the bat and started sprinting to first base.  I watched in amazement as the ball flew over the heads of the incredulous outfielders, and couldn't help but chuckle to myself as they turned and started chasing the ball, like I had done so many times before.

I didn't slow down as I rounded first, keeping my eye on the outfielders and seeing that they were still running.  I rounded second and headed for third.  At this point I made a curious observation.  The outfielders were now running with me.  A look of consternation crossed my face; true, I'd never rounded second and headed for third before, but I was pretty sure it was normally a solo endeavor.  As I approached third, it occurred to me why I had people running with me.  They were actually headed back into the building.  The bell had rung, and recess was over! 

Wait!  Wait!  I'm finishing up!  I'm almost home!  That was the inner conversation I was having with myself.  But it was to no avail; my home run had been circumvented by the recess bell, so nobody was there to see my triumphant crossing of home plate.  But I did it anyway, even if I was the last person in from recess.  And so, in my moment of triumph, there was no one there but me to see it. 

The intervening years have been filled with both home runs and strikeouts, for all of us I'm sure.  And if you're like me, there were probably more people around to see the strikeouts than the home runs.  But at the end of the day, it's not really the strikeouts or the homers that matter.  It's the game.  It's getting outside with your friends and yelling and running and laughing, and making memories.  It's knowing that sometimes you're going to hit the ball and sometimes you're not, but no matter what, you're going to have fun.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.  Dang that recess bell.

5 comments:

  1. You sure do write some fun stuff.

    This gives me an opportunity to tell a tale I would have normally told on my blog, but since I've stopped blogging, you have to hear it and digest it yourself. Sorry, I know it won't be easy, but them's the new rules!

    Sunday, my weekday softball team played against my Sunday softball team. It was a pre-season scrimmage to get us all up and running, shake off the rust. Since there is some overlap in players involved on both teams, we ended up playing 8 on 8, with each team putting a catcher in when they were at bat.

    Got to the final inning and one of the other guys had to leave. This left the team on the field with 7 players. They chose to go with two outfielders. And I came up to bat with 2 runners on, 2 out, and the game in the balance.

    Everybody knows my tendency is to go opposite field, so I didn't think I was giving away any big secret when I yelled out to the pitcher, "Hey, Jack, you know if I poke it into right field I'm going to circle the bases, right? Do you want to put a right fielder in?"

    Jack just smiled, shook his head, and reared back to fire a fastball.

    I laced it into right field and circled the bases. Game.

    A couple of things worth mentioning:

    1 - It was my first home run since 2004. The fact that it was the cheapest one of my career will not discourage me from bragging about it, and it will grow in distance as the years pass. As a matter of fact, I expect by the time I'm 75 or so, there will have been six outfielders, all shading me to right, and the pitcher was Sandy Koufax.

    2 - It was the first time, since 2004, that I had to circle the bases in one shot. I thought I was like to die once I reached home. I am seriously considering never hitting another home run just because of the exertion involved in running. Walks are much easier on my lungs.

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  2. Jim, it's obvious. Now that the pressure of weekly blog installments is gone, you can now properly concentrate on softball.

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  3. After the merciless roasting you're getting over at knucklehead, I'm glad you had a chance to tell this story...

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  4. I wonder if Sully will write guest posts now that he's retiring from blogging?

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