Little League Lessons – How a boy realized his dream (and let it slip away) – Part 1 – The Beginning
This blog post is part one of a three-part story about baseball and a boy, and a girl, and a boy, and then several boys, and then eventually men and women…and then one man who always made it about himself, but didn’t deal with the one thing he should have.
PART ONE – THE BEGINNING
Our story begins with a boy who grew up in a fairly nice house in a fairly nice still-developing neighborhood in a fairly nice town about an hour north of Seattle, Washington. His family moved there when he was eight and throughout the years as he turned from a boy to a man the one constant in his life was baseball. While he did do other sports there was always something special about the game that featured a round bat, a round ball and trying to hit it square.
The boy and his family religiously listened and watched Seattle’s pro baseball team – at that time it was usually about 20 games out of first when summer rolled around – and every once in awhile the family would travel south to go to that concrete tomb known as the Kingdome. Sometimes the team won, most of the time the team lost but even though the boy sat waaayyyy up in the cheap seats . he, like most kids, dreamed about playing ball out there someday.
His baseball career started at age nine at his town’s Little League. He spent most of his first year in the “rookies” division with a team sponsored by Marryott’s Honda playing ball behind the Public Utility District right by the freeway in town. The next two years (age 10 and 11) he moved up to the minor level and patrolled the outfield and played first base for Bob’s Sports Center at the fields behind the Elks Club on the other side of town. He wasn’t very good and his teams weren’t that much better but in between his 11 and 12 year old seasons something magical happened….he hit puberty and had a massive growth spurt. Going into his first and only season at the majors level he stood 5-6 at age 12 and had a deeper voice than most of his competitors. As a result he could hit it further than most, throw it farther than most and could run faster than most anyone. He had an outstanding season for Draper Valley but didn’t make the All-Star team for some reason. He was always an intense person when it came to sports and games and if you looked up “sore loser” in the dictionary his picture was right there. And, he had a world-class temper to boot. .
The following fall he decided to tangle with a car on his bike and shattered both of his lower leg bones. When he got back to full strength most of the kids he had played with hit their growth spurts and all of the sudden he was average. As he entered high school he learned how to bat left-handed which gave him another edge and he spent his sophomore and junior years on the junior varsity baseball team at his high school. He only grew two more inches the rest of his life and gained a bit of weight and his physical skills continued to erode as a result. Fortunately he was such a student of the game that he rarely made a mental error and he gave 100 percent all of the time. Coaches pointed to him as an example of how you need to “hustle” out there.
His senior year, he knew there were only two spots open on the varsity team. He naturally figured he would get one and another one of the juniors on JV would get the other. Right after winter break he spent a lot of time in the batting cages before school getting ready and hit the ball unbelievably well in tryouts. His brains and knowledge of the game didn’t quite make up for his lack of footspeed and arm strength, and he was called into the manager’s office. The manager said he didn’t have a spot for him on the varsity, but he was more than welcome to practice with the team. He wouldn’t suit up for games unless there was an injury and he was for all intensive purposes an “alternate”.
He had one alarming personal trait when bad times hit him…instead of learning from failures and applying it, and making the best of situations, his poor self-esteem led him to focus on the act itself. He failed was all he could think…before school started he had written down his goals and while the number one goal was to always get a girlfriend (this goal always eluded him) goal number two was to make the varsity baseball team. And all he could think was he was not going to realize his number one and number two goals and it would lead to tearful talks with his mother about how much of a failure he was. Crushed, he spent the rest of the week practicing but his attitude was horrible and he soon dropped off the team and soon stopped hanging out with his baseball friends becasue he thought they didn’t want anything to do with him because he wasn’t on the varsity. Looking back…he could have been a part of the varsity but his behavior sealed his fate.
However, he was very grateful of the time that his managers spent with him. He told himself one day while riding the bench for his town’s Junior American Legion team if the opportunity presented itself he would love to be a manager of his child’s baseball team. Considering his track record with the opposite sex in school, he knew that goal was about as lofty as the one he had while attending games in the Kingdome of being a major league player.
But, another sort of miracle happened…and that miracle is going to lead off part two of this three-part blog post. Thank you for reading…and stay tuned!!!