I grew up in suburban New Jersey. Little League was a big deal. It was what you did as a boy. At the start of the season there was a parade through town that ended at the diamond followed by “Play Ball.” I remember it vividly. I had a maroon shirt with white letters, “E.E Construction” was my team. I was not very good at the game. I was often placed in the outfield since it was rare for anyone in my age bracket to actually hit a ball to the outfield. There are photos of me somewhere in my moms house of me trying to catch butterflies while sitting in the outfield.
But on this day that all changed. It is your quintessential baseball tale but it is not a tale. It is all true and I would remember this day for the rest of my life. Let me set the stage, que the dramatic music and imagine James Earl Jones as my narrator.
It was the championship game- the whole neighborhood was there. The final game and my team was in the championship. It was a close game. It was the bottom of the ninth and I was the winning run waiting anxiously on second base. As I mentioned I was not the most attentive of ball players. It happened, I heard yelling “run..run..run!” I RAN, Forrest would have been proud but I was ahead of Mr.Gumps time. I saw my bench as I got to third, waving me to run more. I RAN. Home plate was in my view. I did it. I was the winning run. The butterfly chaser was the winning run in the championship game. There was a celebration UNTIL the catcher from the opposing team sauntered over and touched me the ball. “YOU’RE OUT!” exclaimed the umpire. Silence followed. “YOU’RE OUT!” In my excitement I jumped over home plate without ever touching home plate. I don’t remember what happened after that..lots of discussing among coaches and umpires. There was an appeal filed. In the end, we would play the last three innings over again at a later date. I would love to tell you that in our replay game that I again was the hero but that is not the case and this is why I hate baseball. We lost the championship game. There would be no hero run to home plate from the day dreaming outfielder.
We came in second place for the season and we were all given our trophies (because we came in second, not just for playing). And this is the part that sticks with me. My name was called, I walked up to take my trophy and we were each given a ball from the coach with words of inspiration or so I thought. This is what my ball said. “Todd, it was a great season and remember when running the bases don’t forget to step on them.” The photo of the actual ball is real although my damn dog ate part of it. So America’s Pastime- I hate you, F—- baseball.