Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tuna: Baseball- a lost love

Sarge is gonna let me run loose with his site, so I'll treat it with respect and dignity.  His Independence Day post that referenced Ted Williams got me thinking about my own baseball playing days oh-so-long ago. 

     I think I've always loved baseball, but that love wasn't always supported in my family.  Growing up in rural and rugged Oregon, far from any neighbors or teammates, 30 minutes drive to the nearest town and baseball diamond- didn't make for easy transport to practices.  Growing up in a family of 6, each member with competing interests and activities, led by two hard-working parents, but still with meager means, often meant that making it to or from practice couldn't be guaranteed.  Dad liked sports, but wasn't much into throwing the old horsehide around- too busy with his own interests I suppose.  I never reached a skill level that kept me off the bench much, or out of right field, or higher than the bottom of the lineup when I did play.  I practiced hard in little league though, when I could, eventually improving my play to a level which earned me a slot on the roster in High School.  Although I lost track of the number of times I missed a practice after my folks said “Sorry, you’ll have to skip practice today.  Your sister has” this, or …"your brother has” that, or they had to work, or we were yet again down to just one car.  I understood this then, have had to say similar things to my own children at times, but it didn't take the sting out of it when it happened.  It really hurt during the few times I had to miss actual games.  I remember once instance in high school when my folks couldn't let me go on an overnight trip where we were to play two conference rivals several hours away- one game Friday night, and a double-header on Saturday- the biggest trip of the year that we all looked forward to.  To miss that one, only because at 10:30 PM Saturday night, when we were scheduled to return, there was just no way to get me home from the high school.  Dad was called in to work the night shift and the single working car was with him. Yeah, I still loved baseball, but I hated always being down in the count.

     Practice did make perfect though- I made an American Legion team one year, playing for four glorious weeks, until one day my dad showed up 30 minutes into a 2 hour practice.  He said I had to leave, giving no explanation.  The coach called me at home that night, telling me I’d been dropped from the team, explaining that I just didn’t have the commitment needed.  I had the commitment-  just not the ride!  I was so angry, but Dad didn’t want to hear it.  I quit trying after that- losing interest in the game almost completely.  Folks got divorced shortly after I graduated, and I wrongly associated baseball with my anger at my Dad.

     Fast forward to 1998, I’m married, and the Navy has stationed me in San Diego.  I bring my 2 year old with me to opening day to watch the San Diego Padres.  Later that season the Friars are on a tear- ripping up the NL West.  I’m excited about baseball again- the whole city of fair-weather fans is excited about baseball!  My wife’s Grandfather calls to talk.  It was totally unexpected, but oh-so-welcome- he was a FAN!  He’d been watching the games when he could, the highlights every night, and checking the box scores daily.  He knew the players and what they needed to do to make the playoffs. Our talks increased my interest, my baseball knowledge, and rekindled something I thought I had lost.  I slowly forgot about my anger surrounding my Dad and my childhood baseball career.

     My wife’s grandfather was a self-made man with the fruits of his labor in the bank.  The Padres made the playoffs, won the Pennant, and he wanted to go to the World Series!  He bought the tickets to game 3 and we had a blast, despite the results of the game and the series- the Yankees in 4.  I had someone to share baseball with, and I loved the game again.  He died not long after, but thanks to him, I’ll never again forget my love of baseball. 


9 comments:

  1. Where in Oregon, Tuna? I spent three years in Klamath Falls and about a year and a half in Coos Bay/North Bend. Oregon was... and is... one of my very favorite places in these United States.

    As Chris said: great post!

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  2. K-Falls? We'd head over to Kingsley AFB to hit the commissary or get new ID cards every so often. A tiny little town called Selma on the Redwood Hwy (199) is where my Dad bought 5 acres when he was on leave in the early 60's. We' moved there from San Diego when he retired in '75. 9 miles from the nearest store, 2 miles up an old dirt logging road, almost an hour to Grants Pass, which is the only city of note nearby unless you've heard of Cave Junction, where I attended school.

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    1. We' moved there from San Diego when he retired in '75.

      We JUST missed each other! I left Kingsley Field for Japan in early summer o' '75. Talk about a Small World!

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  3. Slight error on my part- should have used "cowhide" vice "horsehide."

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    1. Heh, I just figured that was an Oregon thing. Some of us Easterners wouldn't have noticed.

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  4. Nice story, and at least you had someone to share the love of the game with...

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  5. Die hard Giants fan here. I'd say long suffering but they have had a recent string of success :) Though it wasn't always that way. I went to my first game in 82 with a bunch of the guys from Ft. Ord. They played the Braves. Bob Brenly hit a grand slam yet they still found a way to lose. A man fell off the upper deck, very near where we were sitting, and was killed. Candlestick was windy and cold, even in July. AT&T is a wonderful park but at times I still miss The Stick. We moved so I don't get to games any more but the memories live on. Fine post Tuna.

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    1. My first game at The Stick was when it was still baseball only and parking was still available in the paved lot
      There were three Willies, Kirkland, McCovey, and Mays
      You could sit behind home and look out to see the ships at Hunters Point
      I think I've been a die hard Giants fan since '58
      Then the NFL season starts and I'm reminded the Giants haven't been around as long as the Forty Niners

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)