I was twelve, trying out for Little League for the first time. I was big for my age. Although I got no hits during the try out, I took some impressive swings and one of the assembled coaches took a chance on me. Days later in coach's basement we assembled as the 1957 version of Dave's Photo Shop. I was tossed a uniform with jersey number 13 and decided to stay with the team anyway. I was proud and used to wear the jersey to school when I could.
I was not a good baseball player. I was a less than mediocre ball player, but I got a spot in center field. Our first game was a disaster. I went 0 for 4 at bat. Coach was encouraging and told me to shoot for a foul ball and we could grow on that.
My fielding matched my bating. Pop flies to center were my meat, but ground balls were deadly. I could not field a ground ball cleanly to save my life. My outspread legs were the Arc de Triomphe for every little team in our little league. Coach became less than kind. He threatened to move me over to right field, a position then occupied by our undersized runt of a bat boy.
Game five arrived and my ball career was on the line, the first base, right field line. First at bat I got a single, and stole second base. Strike outs followed. In the bottom of the ninth, we were tied. Man on first and second, two outs. Coach is looking at me sidelong and has both hands on the shoulders of a big kid who was improbably a worse batter than good ole 13. Coach says, "Get a hit, Mac." I am almost crushed by the pressure. I must win one for the Gipper. Casey must get a hit. At the plate, I take a ball low and outside by a mile. "Good eye, Mac", says the coach. I am no longer Billy, I am Mac at the bat. Pride almost busts my number 13 jersey. Second pitch and I whack the pea over the center field fence. The crowd goes wild. I stride along the baseline, taking all the credit for our first of many victories.
I swear that it has been 40 years and I am just now ready to admit to myself, to my coach and to my little teammates that I am pretty sure I had my eyes closed when I whacked that fastball.
I was twelve. I am now sixty-four. These little admissions are the proof the maturing balm of little league baseball in the spring.