Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Original Bad News Bears

I've been slashing and burning mostly unsentimentally through the accumulated material detritus of my life -- photos, CDs, videos, clothes, books. This one, however, is a keeper.

It's my jersey from my first season of Little League baseball. I was in third grade.

We were the original Bad News Bears and I was about the weakest link on the team. I played outfield and am certain the coaches said a few Hail Marys every time the ball was hit in my direction. I was a dropper, a bobbler, a whiffer and a world class faller.

One game toward the end of the season I was out in center field when the batter send a high, short fly ball my way. A blooper. I started running in toward the infield. I ran and I ran and I ran as the ball arced downward. At the last minute I dove, my gloved hand outstretched, and tumbled across the grass in a somersault.

At the end of it all, no one was more surprised than I was to see a bright white half-sphere poking up above the webbing of my glove. I snow-coned it.

The entire team came out and dogpiled on me and whooped and hollered and celebrated like we'd just won the world series. I don't remember whether it was the end of the season or the end of the game or even the end of the inning, but that catch was a landmark for me, and maybe for the team.

My Little League career would extend for another five seasons. Some years I was the goat and some the all-star. (The latter when I was at the upper limit of the league's age range -- a 12-year-old in the 10-to-12 league, for instance. When I was a 13-year-old in the 13-to-15 league I didn't fare as well.)

No matter. For that brief shining moment I was in a proverbial league of my own.

Incidentally, it wasn't until around the second year of college that I finally outgrew that shirt.

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