Seth recently wrote about his baseball background, so in the same spirit, I wanted to share a story of my own.
We headed over to the field for some groundballs. Three young men trotted out after us, donning fresh spikes and jerseys without names on the back. When they joined me at SS, I thought it a good chance to welcome the new guys and practice some Spanish, so I struck up a conversation. We introduced ourselves and I learned they were from the Dominican Republic. Out of a hunch, I asked if this was their first time in the country, they said it was. This idea of dream chasing in a foreign country got me thinking.
What is it about this game that pulled us in? And how did our stories become intertwined?
I was 11 and Elliot was 9 when we discovered Splashbombs. Always looking for another game to play, we started brainstorming. Our yards weren't quite big enough for the confines of a full size wiffleball field, but this new foamy ball offered endless possibilities. So we took a standard yellow wiffle bat and went to work creating. We laid ground rules and got the neighborhood kids together to make a league. Splashball was created.
Year one was played in my backyard, with a hose serving as the fence. One foul pole was a basketball hoop, the other was a swing set slide in the back corner of my yard. Four teams of two played about a 20 game season before a three game series championship to end the year.
By year two, my dad had cut out a dirt infield, home plate and mound. He had even put up a mesh fence, with taller walls in right and center for extra character. We played and played all summer long until the sun would go down.
Then the sunset couldn't stop us. My parents installed a light on the back of our house to allow for night games. By year three, we were playing an 80 game schedule with recorded stats and a draft to start the season. Complete with a minor league portion, I selected Elliot's little brother, Ryker, with my final pick-he was 5 at the time. A couple of years later, he would throw the first perfect game in Splashball history.
The league faded as we became older with more responsibility, but I still have fond memories. I remember playing quadruple headers, I remember deep opposite field home runs, I remember seeing incredible catches. Looking back, I see my love for the game blossoming, I see instincts being born on a small field where quick reactions and athleticism were vital to success. Maybe that's why the league produced two D1 and three D2 baseball players, as well as one D2 softball player. Does that qualify as a feeder system?
Looking beyond the game we played for endless summer days, I see my new friends doing the same. I consider that they, too, must have similar stories. I picture them playing a game on hot summer days in the streets, parks and backyards of their country-getting together with friends to enjoy the simple game we all love.
The truth is we all have a baseball story, a background that got us to where we are right now. Whether it was Splashball in the backyard or pick up at the local park, we have something to tell. Our stories got my new friends and me to the same infield. A few kids from completely different parts of the world, sharing the same dirt, grass and groundballs-our past shining through in our present motions and instinctual movements.
What a beautiful game.
What is your story? What got you to where you are on your baseball journey? Write it in the comment section. Or, if you can do it in 140 characters, tweet me @apettersen1!