The Smell of Leather

It’s more of a question that will never get answered.  If I had stuck with baseball in some small way, rather than just giving it up for college and a different future; might I have had a chance to play in college.  I don’t care about playing professional baseball, would I have been good enough to play other people my basic age from around the country?  When I killed my knee, I never really tried to get back in shape other than to deal with the cancer that broke it.  There was a mix of fear on my part about doing more damage and my mother wasn’t very helpful because she had the same fear.  Only she vocalized it!

I’d spend hours with a pitchback net in the back yard.  Throwing the ball greater and greater distances and with increased speed.  When my dad was around he tried to pitch to me so that I could regain some form as a catcher.  I didn’t know until later he actually had some damage of his own in the shoulder.  So between working those days and coming home only to start wrenching his arm, big time props!

It’s easy to say I have the size for the sport, even a good working knowledge of how to create a good strategy for dealing with the players both on the field and off.  That is something I have been able to carry forward into my current life.  But to me there are fewer sounds that can just make you feel alive than a ball hitting leather at 85 MPH.  My desire to continue just left when I was 16.  I still played, every year I signed up and went to the tryouts.  Every year I made the team because I worked hard at gaining that spot.  Sometimes I was merely the backup and sometimes I was the guy who started.

School took over a level of importance to me.  But that nagging feeling just keeps coming back at weird times.  I’d play softball with friends in the neighborhood in my late 20’s on a Sunday afternoon.  Most people would call it beer league boys, but we wanted to prove something to each other.  Mostly that macho notion we still had it while our families were watching from the bleachers hoping we didn’t fall and need stitches!  I remember running full speed into the guy catching for the opposing team, only to end up rolling onto the ground together.  The two of us laughing because we both knew to just take a step back or at least to the side.

There’s a series of batting cages 10 minutes from my house.  Pay a $1 and get 12 pitches.  Any speed you want, any size ball you request.  Before getting sick again, that was what I would do to help deal with the anger and grief with my daughter or her mother.  I never told anyone, that might make them want to come along.  I’d spend my $5 and head to the store to buy something stupid so it looked like I was doing something different then I was.  The blisters sometimes were harder to hide if I was really worked up, it was an emotional release for me.  Something I always thought that even as my kid got older, she’d indulge the old man with a round or two just to have some fun.

Baseball, that’s what I would practice.  Take the time machine and just ask myself to try a little harder.  Answer the question I had then before I got older and it wasn’t a possibility.  I would have still gone to college, graduated like In was supposed to; only I might have had different activities after class.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Practice Makes Perfect?.”


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