I grew up the son of a single mother. My father was "around", in that he would occasionally re-enter my life from time to time. As I grew older, we had less and less in common. Bit the one lasting thing he gave me was a love for baseball. The game. Its history. The records. The men who brought the game to where it was then and where it is today. I always wanted to play it well, but alas, I never was very good. Growing up, I also had few friends. Still, the baseball teams I played on meant the world to me.
When I was 12, my mother planned to remarry, and we were moving. My life was changing. I was leaving everything behind. Looking back, it wasn't much. A crappy apartment. Teammates but not friends. A sub-.200 batting average. A solid defensive catcher who couldn't hit a fastball. Strong fundamentals couldn't change the fact that I was afraid of the ball. So we came to my last game in my first hometown. Where I walked with the Little League in my first parade. Where the local deli and the local body shop sponsored teams. I would love to say my final game was the championship, but it wasn't. We were a middling team hovering around .500 all year long. We were playing the best team in the league, but for them it was just a tuneup for the playoffs. Those days, there were no trophies for participation, and only 6 of 14 teams went to the playoffs.
My coach, however, was one for getting everyone in. So up I came, down 2 with men on 1st and 2nd in the fifth of six innings. Two outs. One of their better pitchers staying loose by pitching a late inning. I remember thinking my guy on 2nd should have a better lead. The pitch came, and I saw something I hadn't seen before...a large white spot in the middle of the ball. In an instant, I remembered something my father had told me. You can see the white spot if the laces aren't spinning through.....he'd hung a curve ball. I swung. With everything I had. And I connected. I'd never heard that sound off my bat before. The ball lifted towards right center. I saw the center fielder ease up and figured he had it measured. But instead, he and I and everyone else watched the ball soar over the fence.
No fairy tale this, we gave up a boatload of runs in the 6th. But for half an inning, I was the hero.