|By Frank Kelly|
Break out the oils; yknow, neats - foot for the glove and Oil of Wintergreen for the arm. Dust off last years bat, the Adirondack, Hillerich and Bradsby, or Louisville Slugger, the one you retrieved from the garbage can at the park. A couple of minutes in the basement at your dads workbench, a few well placed nails, some friction tape, and its as good as new.
.. Hey Ma, Ma! My spikes dont fit ... proudly you say ... guess I grew a little, huh! ... Use your brothers spikes ... says he aint playin this year. .... but theyre too big ... wear two pairs o white socks, youll make do ... Well, Im already wearin his pants and shirts. Guess I can thank God I aint got no older sister.
Dont matter now. Youre on your way to the park with your friends. Bat in one hand, glove on the other, spikes hung over your shoulder supported by their shoelaces tied in a knot. Youve stopped at the corner grocery store and bought a nickel jaw breaker. Its in your pocket now but after practice itll find its way into one of your spikes, wrapped in a piece of paper. Itll last a week that way. The jaw breaker, its an essential part of the game. I mean, ygotta spit yknow. But yer still a little too young for a chunk of Redman. Thats for the bigger guys. Man, their spittin machines. That Redman must be good stuff.
Youre at the park now, your nostrils filling with the sweet smell of Acacia trees and the fresh cut grass of early spring. You can feel the warm sun radiating off the still damp field onto growing bones, limber muscles and supple tendons. Stretching isnt even part of your curricula. Itll be years before those bones, muscles and tendons calcify, and become as fragile as peanut brittle. So you start out the afternoon by whipping the ball around. No such thing as warming up.
... Well take battin practice first. coach says ... five swings each, gotta lot of infield to take today. There it is. Everything stops for a moment, youre suspended in time, and you inhale deeply.
Man! Everything smells better n Moms home cooking on Sunday afternoon. The coachs words reverberate in your ears ... Battin practice! Wow, Im talkin bout the most sacred moment of the year is about to take place, and it aint Ash Wednesday. Im talkin bout the first crack of the bat initiating baseball season. Ground balls into the hole, Texas Leaguers over the shortstops head, liners into the gap. All of em chasing the winter solstice back to the southern hemisphere, where it belongs.
Youve fielded a hundred ground balls, or so it seems. Practice s ovr coach says ... Cmon coach, ten more .... nope ... kok, five more ... nope ... k, two, two more an well quit ... ok, two more but pick-up the bags on yer way in. The bags member them. Canvas bags filled with straw or sawdust or a combination of both. Pick em up! Hell, you could sail em across the diamond like a Frisbee. The Frisbee, go figure, still a few years away yet. Of course, none of us being geniuses, we let another opportunity for early retirement slip through our fingers like an infield pop-up.
O.K. Coach says ... hower them arms doin? great coach, loose as a goose ... aint even gonna hurt tmorrow.
Coach says member, put some oil of wintergreen on them elbows and shoulders after yer baths tnight. We all look at each other, baths tnight, its nly Thursday.
On your way home, one of your friends spoils the afternoon by bringn up homework. Hey, member we gotta look up them buildns Sister was talking bout tday. Whad she call em, ancient architecture or sumptin!
Man! Two hours ago I was practicin baseball. Now Im layn on the front room floor don my homework. The Pyramids, the Mayan Temple at Chechen Itza, the Cathedral of St. Basil in Moscow, the Drum Tower in Peking, and the Taj Mahal.
Big deal, I mean who cares. How come Abner Doubleday aint in these books? Look at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. There all built around Doubledays creation of the perfect diamond formed by 90 foot base paths. And they even polished it off with Home Plate made in the shape of a pentagon. Now thats architecture.
My newly repaired bat is leaning against the wall in a corner of my bedroom. My spikes, which are two sizes too big, are on the floor with my glove resting on top of em. Its oiled up with neats-foot and a ball sits in the pocket, their neatly tied up with a leather shoestring from one of my dads old work boots. Last year my dad built a new bedroom off the back of our house for me and my brother. I can prop myself up in bed, look out the window, and see Seals Stadium in the distance. The Seals are playn their last season here cause next year the New York Giants are movn to San Francisco - Wow! The Giants, right out there at Seals Stadium. I cant see the stadium tonight cause theres no lights on. But I know its right there next to the big Hamms Brewery glass of beer. Ya know, the one thats made of lights that keeps fllln up and gon out and then filln up and going out all over.
Well, our first practice is over and the next one aint till Saturday. But after school tmorrow well have a pick-up game. Man, is there anything better n baseball season?