When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

06 September 2008

My time in right field

It will astonish my wife and most of my friends to learn this, but for a single season, in junior high school, I played on the baseball team. I don't talk about it much. :-)

My wife, the pro baseball fan, who has to explain the intricacies and rules and fine points to me whenever we watch a game (she's very patient and kind about this) must be absolutely flabbergasted at this point: how could someone with such a weak theoretical grasp of the game ever have played?

Well, it goes like this.

I was a student in a small parochial school that wanted to field a baseball team. There weren't enough actually interested players, and a few kids got shanghaied (dragooned?) into service.

They found some ex-jock-gone-to-seed to coach the team as a part-time gig; I think he might have also been qualified to teach something like Driver's Education (that was a popular combo down South for a long time.) He was certainly qualified to chew tobacco and take regular pulls on the bottle of Four Roses that he kept in the glovebox of his car, and for all I know he actually might have known something about baseball.

We had baseball practice three times a week, which was utter confusion for me, because I really had no well-formed idea of how the game was played (I got the "you hit the ball and run around the bases" part, but the subtleties were lost on me) and everyone else clearly already understood everything they wanted to know about baseball by then.

They put me at the bottom of the batting order - and on defense, I was out in right field.

I mentioned, I think, that it was a parochial school. By this I mean that it was formally affiliated with the Episcopal Church, not that it was provincial in its point of view, although an argument can certainly be made.

We prayed at chapel service every schoolday, but I had never prayed as fervently about anything in my young life, up to that point, as the prayer I said, over and over, on every game day, as I trotted out to right field with an antique baseball glove that used to belong to my dad:

Lord, I hope the percentage of left-handed hitters on their team is low
And that our pitching is good and their hitting is weak
And I would really prefer it if no baseballs came my way today.
If perchance someone should hit the ball in my direction, it would be really decent of You to help me give a good accounting of myself.
Thanks. Amen.

I don't think I hit the ball in an actual game all season long.

I do remember making at least one good catch, and thank God there was nobody on base at the time, so I didn't have to work out all the permutations of where I should be throwing the damn ball.

Experiences like this are what led me into a life of process wonkery. I am the kind of person who really prefers to understand the theoretical underpinnings of what I'm doing.

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