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  • A Game of Stories

    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!
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Great story.

      What really strikes me, though, is what your parents were willing to do to help you and your friends create and play a new game. Nobody gets there alone.
    1. Madre Dos's Avatar
      Madre Dos -
      Being a March baby, I was born right before baseball season in upstate NY in 1962. My dad use to prop me up in the corner of the couch with lots of pillows so I couldn't fall over and we would watch Yankee games on Saturday afternoons. My love of baseball started at 6 weeks old.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by Madre Dos View Post
      Being a March baby, I was born right before baseball season in upstate NY in 1962. My dad use to prop me up in the corner of the couch with lots of pillows so I couldn't fall over and we would watch Yankee games on Saturday afternoons. My love of baseball started at 6 weeks old.
      My Daughter was born 2/25/14, we watched her first Twins game this afternoon. I hope her love for the game and the team follows the same path.

      AJ thanks for writing. I always love reading you posts.
    1. biggentleben's Avatar
      biggentleben -
      I've got one story for my love of the game itself, and one for loving of playing.

      First, why I love the game (and why I am first and foremost a Braves fan - to the chagrin of many around here). It all goes back to my great-grandma. She was bound and determined to get another baseball maniac in the family, and for some reason, I was her choice. We would sit and talk baseball whenever she was visiting from Arizona, and she would tell me about past players and how when Andre Dawson played, it made her think of a young Ernie Banks (she was a Cubs fan, and lo and behold, Dawson ended up joining her beloved Cubbies after her observations of his play). She was unabashed about how much she loved the game, even choosing her home in Arizona to be close to the Cubs' spring training facility. She loved Hank Aaron, and one of my first baseball memories is her getting me a biography of Hank Aaron for me to read when I was just four and had just started reading "real" books. The biography was short, but it took me a year to process through, but by then I was hooked on baseball, and especially on the Braves and their current MVP player, Dale Murphy. My great grandma passed away after nearly a decade's battle with Alzheimer's, but we could always watch baseball and she never forgot who I was when we would watch a game, though we often would watch a live game and I'd need to be sure I knew my 1960s Cubs to keep up with who she was referring to on the current Cubs' roster as she often intertwined them.

      My playing story is one that I haven't told often, but growing up, I had a very good arm, but I was a pudgy kid, so I wasn't the first one to be given a chance on the mound over the other "more athletic" types. I had a coach entrust me with play at 3B at 12 years old, and I loved the spot because I could use my arm as I made plays, even if I wasn't the most athletic guy out there. That year, my coach had me pitch to him on the side after one practice, and he encouraged me to watch pitchers and learn their stuff because he'd use me the next year. Early that spring, a baseball player from our local college team was working a summer job spraying weeds along the road, and their truck broke down in front of our house. To my luck, he happened to not just be a random player, but the Friday night starter for the team. He went through nearly two hours of pitching workouts with me to show me how to perfect my follow through, my control, and make my delivery precise and consistent. I was only allowed to play one more year of baseball, but I spent it dominating on the mound any time I was there because someone was willing to take the time to share his love of the game with me.
    1. Jdosen's Avatar
      Jdosen -
      My neighbors had a tennis court when I was a kid, and believe me it was rarely used for tennis. In the winter, it was a hockey rink, but in summers, it was for home run derbies. By the time we were 12, it wasn't even fun anymore because hitting one out of there wasn't all that tough, but when we were real young, we would pitch to each other and fetch homers all day long. I miss those days.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      My folks had an extra lot next to the house, on a corner. That was the gathering place for kids all over the neighborhood to get together for football games in the fall and baseball games as soon as the snow was almost gone till football season. My dad would hit me fly balls high as he could, and we'd play long toss, longer every year as I grew up. Turned out I had a good strong arm.

      The neighbor behind the lot always told me if I could hit the roof of his garage with a batted ball he'd give me 50 cents. Finally I hit a bomb that went over the roof, and I was all excited about getting the half buck. But when we went to retrieve the ball, it was in the house, went right thru the bedroom window. I lost money on that deal.
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