Kneeling down to rip up a handful of grass.
Covering your face within your mitt to see how it would work as a mask.
Feeling the sun bake down upon your exposed forearms.
Watching anxious parents in the stands wonder why their children aren’t taking the game more seriously.
I was about six or seven, and this was tee-ball.
One year my team lost almost every game. The next, we came in second place.
I got to play second base, my favorite position, a little that year although another kid’s dad wanted him to play it, so it was a constant struggle to stay on second. But after every game, only two things really mattered.
My dad would let me buy a 50-cent pack of Topps baseball cards–you know, the ones with the hard piece of broken chewing gum. And I would also get to order a suicide.
In the 80s, there was a time when every little boy wanted a drink called a suicide. Even the name of the drink was rebellious. Parents didn’t order suicides. Grandparents didn’t. Only young boys and their fellow rambunctious teammate buddies ordered suicides–the 80’s sugar water of boisterous adolescence.
The man behind the food stand would mix each drink with zeal, adding Dr. Pepper as he slid the waxy paper cup to Pepsi and then to Root Beer and then adding dash of Sprite. My eager teammates kicked up dry dirt as they waited in line for the rewarding treat in the blistering heat.
I don’t really remember what it tasted like, but I know I liked it. After a few sips, I would get in the car with my dad and start looking through the new baseball cards hoping that I didn’t get too many doubles.
I wanted the full team of the Dodgers. Although I liked the White Sox and the Yankees too, the Dodgers were my team.
That bold blue.
That simple LA emblem.
I was thrilled when my parents surprised me with Orel Hershiser’s record breaker card one year on my birthday. I would place my cards out over the thick carpet of my bedroom floor to see the collected team together. The Dodgers winning the 1988 World Series highlighted that season of baseball card collecting.
Besides for a few years of tee-ball and then playing on my Bible study’s team at church almost 20 years later, that was all the ball I ever played. I had no hopes of earning a baseball scholarship, being a professional baseball player, or even coaching.
Although I try to make it out to a Dodgers game every other year or so and sit in the all-you-can-eat section, I don’t even watch very many games on TV.
I went out for baseball conditioning once in high school. I observed high school coaches cussing at the students for not being fast enough. I saw some students falling on their knees with vomit bursting out of their mouths after being pushed so hard. The fear in some of my fellow students’ eyes was alarming.
This wasn’t the baseball I remembered.
This wasn’t a game.
This wasn’t for me.
Then I remembered some of the tee-ball parents getting upset that their kid didn’t get enough time in their preferred position and them angrily yelling from the stands words that little kids shouldn’t hear.
But we, the ones who were actually playing the game, were happy just being out there and getting our baseball cards and soda afterwards.
I have to remind myself to strive for that childlike outlook on life again–to be so happy with such simple things.
Adults have forgotten how to play a game.
They care too much about winning and losing.
They think about suicide instead of drinking them.
They don’t chew broken bubblegum anymore.
There are definitely times in life where we need to be serious, but I feel being serious comes quite naturally to most of us.
We have to remind ourselves to have a playful outlook on life, with the faith of a child. We have to remember how to play a game.