But, That’s Just Me!

I am by nature a very competitive person and anything I see someone else doing that I think I might enjoy participating in, I will throw my whole heart into preparing myself for the challenge. I have always been one of those guys who wanted to be in the game because that’s where the action is. And if I couldn’t play on someone’s team, I would start a team and one of my primary goals would be to beat the team that thought they were too good for me to play on. I will do whatever it takes to get into shape if it kills me because I don’t like losing to someone I know I can beat. I have been around long enough to know that for me to get to the point where I am competitive with those who are good at the game is a process. Only a fool thinks they can go out and play with those people without first conditioning their body to handle the stress of serious sports play.

After sitting out of baseball for twenty-five years, I decided I wanted to play again. And at age forty-three I saw an ad in the newspaper where a team was soliciting baseball players that was thirty and over. When I told my wife what I was going to do, she just laughed and said, “The only thing you’re gonna do is hurt yourself.” I signed up anyway and made a fool of myself because I was so far out of shape and in the mind of the coach I was a hopeless case. So I was relegated to being a bench warmer long before the first game of the season. But I was purpose driven and by the end of that first season I was in shape and ready for a real challenge. I found it at the college age level. When I told my old team where I was just a bench warmer I was moving down to that age group, immediate the hostility and the snide remarks began, but that was their pain. It made no never mind to me. I was ready and I knew it. I didn’t stop playing baseball until I was forty-eight when my son got old enough to start baseball or I would have continued to play for many more years. From age forty-four to forty-seven I played with college kids and I worked at my conditioning everyday year round. I had to, those guys were faster than me, and had stronger throwing arms than I did, but none of them could out hit me.  When I decided I wanted to play at their level, the first thing they made me do was go out to the baseball field for a try out. I have never been a person who lacked confidence in his ability. So when the young man that took my application said to me, “How old did you say you were?” I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Forty three.” I could tell from the way he looked at me he thought I was way too old to play with these guys and I would only embarass myself, but nevertheless he gave me a tryout.  He escorted me to the ball park shortly thereafter and commenced to pitch to me. He had just graduated from college and was a pretty darn good lefty. To make me feel better he started out taking it easy on the old man, but after I hit ten balls in a row out of the park he picked it up some. Pretty soon he was throwing the best he had at me, and still the balls kept flying out of the park. In the end I embarrassed the guy, but I only did so because he was tried to embarrass me in front of the other guys who were present at my tryout. Later I learned he was the league president and the say so guy on his team. Because I embarrassed him in front of his friends, he put me on a team as their player coach. The team I received had finished last the season before and the prospects for the upcoming season didn’t look any better. I finished that first year with my new team playing in 13 games which was about half of the league schedule, going 34 for 39 with 5 homers. In the league championship game the same guy who pitched to me at try outs was pitching for the other team. But he never forgot the embarassment I caused him, so when I came to the plate with one on and two outs one run down in the bottom of the seventh, he took himself out of the game telling the relief pitcher to walk me and strike out the guy behind me. We lost the game and finished second in the tournament and the league, but I had earned those young guys respect.

It wasn’t long after that – that most of those guys were playing for me in another league and over the next three seasons we kicked butt and took names winning it all each year. I finished my second baseball career playing on a team with ex-major leaguers and triple A ball players. I was introduced to them one night when my team played a game against them and I hit three homers one right after the other off three different former major league pitchers and then hit another ball off the top of the fence against a triple A pitcher in my last at bat. My heroics wasn’t enough to save the day, they trounced my team pretty soundly. But after the game their coach came up to me and recruited me to play weekend tournaments with them. In the dugout during a tournament in the Chattagnooga Lookout’s Stadium in eastern Tennessee those guys I had homered off of in the game I mentioned above questioned me about where I had played my college and pro ball. They thought I was pulling their leg when I told them I was forty eight years old and the only baseball I had played was sandlot baseball in smalltown, Illinois. I don’t think they ever believed me.  I was pretty darn good for an old man because I still had a tiger living inside me that wanted to be loosed.

I recall one game in particular that an incidence took place I thought was hilarious and still do. When I came up to bat, a young lady sitting in the stands directly behind home plate who when she found out how old I was made the comment rather loudly, “Why he’s older than my dad” and laughed out loud. On the very next pitch, I hit a towering homerun over the light poles in center field off her boy friend who was the opposing team pitcher and my guys in the dugout who had also heard her comment, all said in unison rather loudly when I rounded third base, “Can your daddy do that?” And they all had a good laugh. She never said another word the rest of the game; at least not that we could hear. I loved baseball and during those years I worked hard at my game every day because I loved playing in the dirt. But that’s just me. DThrash

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