Saturday, May 27, 2017

foul ball

I never hit a home run in little league but came close one night on a field in Newport Beach. The infield, I remember, was lit better than any diamond I'd played on.

I had hit balls in practices that generated discussion, balls that had no right to be coming off my bat but I was, according to the coach I had in the summer after my seventh grade year, "a home run hitter," after I'd crushed a few off him in batting practice one June afternoon, after he'd seen previous bombs.

Coach Ratay had a son on the team, had pitched in the Cleveland Indians farm system. A knuckle-baller. He threw to me a few times. Like trying to barehand a bouncing-in-the-air butterfly with your off-hand with one eye closed. Just silly.

I'm just saying. I worked to build my swing and knew a little about weight shift, a strong top hand and the effects of good bat speed. As a kid I was absolutely in love with baseball and put a lot of time in improving my skills.

So on this August night in Newport Beach - it was a playoff game - I put a swing on one, got every bit of it, and launched a rocket down far down the left field line, well beyond and over the left-fielder,  but hooked it foul by ten feet into treetops that lined the fence that separated the field from the parking lot on the other side.

I still remember the quiet that ensued, followed by indistinct murmuring while the left-fielder finally retrieved the ball and threw it back in.

And remember as well my imagination jogging me around the bases had the ball been fair. I could have snail-trotted.

Then struck out on the next pitch and gave the punk pitcher a good look after his chumpass first pump. The bitch.

I think I grounded out to third base next and last time up but recall clearly that the left-fielder had positioned himself somwhere closer to Fashion Island than home plate.

To embellish just a little.

Biggest bomb I ever saw launched in little league.

Foul into the treetops. Off the black aluminum bat that belonged to a kid named John Bierholm. Loved that bat.

I was a short pudgy kid named Bobby back then.

I played catcher that year - default, no one else could or wanted to - and handcuffed Brett Shannon in this game with a threw behind the runner. Brett played first-base. Too much on the throw, though, and off his too-slow wrist down the right-field line while Terry Zercher lumbered after it seemingly forever as the runner I"d thrown behind ran all the way around the bases.

We lost this game.

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