Sunday, May 02, 2010

Dreaming Of Baseball Past And Watching Baseball’s Future


I had a birthday this last week.

I'm not one much for birthdays, especially now that I am drawing so close to the age of fifty.

Nearly half a century.

How the hell did that happen?

I can still find comfort in the fact that I am not fifty yet.

I still feel like I am twenty six.

At least my mind thinks my body is still twenty six.

Last night I had a dream that I was playing baseball.

I was the shortstop.

With a man on third and only one out in a tied game - a pop fly was hit over my head.

A Texas leaguer. A high blooper destined to fall in that no man zone in left center field - too shallow for the outfielder to catch. A dying quail.

It was up to me.

I turned my body to sprint out under the ball – my eyes never losing sight of that red threaded white orb that hung in the air for what seemed like minutes as I stayed underneath it in full sprint.

A smooth gaited sprint as I floated over the ground.

It was going to fall just out of reach, but I extended my glove as far back as I could reach … and nabbed it in the webbing of the mitt.

"Got it!"

The man on third took off for home – tagging up to score the winning run. But my body was still moving to the outfield.

I ducked my shoulder and rolled on the ground to stop – the momentum of the roll brought me back to my feet, my back foot planted as I threw the ball on a rope to the catcher poised at the plate waiting for my throw – and I hit the center of that catcher's mitt – just in time for him to tag the barreling runner out – as the runner slammed into the catcher they both went flying.

The umpire waited for the dust to clear – the catcher had the ball – raised in the air in his mitt.

"OUT!" screamed the imaginary man in black. His fist pumped back with his thumb extended into the air.

I woke up just as my imaginary team mates were high fiving me and patting me on the back for the highlight reel worthy play.

A wonderful dream. A great game. "When was I up? I bet I can hit this imaginary pitcher I haven't seen yet".

"Maybe I'm on deck?"

One voice in the stands was louder than the others. A familiar voice that sounded as excited as I was at that moment … "who is that?"

"Daddy!", screamed Ashley-Rae – quite real and standing in the middle of our bedroom. "You gotta get up, we got our first game this morning!"

Now it's my girl's turn to make the plays I can only dream about making again.

And this year both my daughters are on the same team, much to my eldest – Alannah's – chagrin. Ashley-Rae moved up to Alannah's league this year.

And after three years playing Turtle Club softball, they love it even more.

What more could I ask for?

Yesterday was opening day at the Turtle Club. A big parade marched all the teams that the Turtle Club fields through our little town of Lasalle. Fire trucks and sirens – people lining the streets to wave at the kids marching in their various uniforms of greens and yellows – marching behind the banners of their leagues – with the Turtle Club mascot "Sam" (I think) a huge green turtle version of the San Diego Chicken marching along waving to everyone and holding the hands of various little players along the way.

The Turtle Club is a great organization.

At the club, all the teams gathered on the center showcase diamond - # 1 – lining the infield base bath. Select players held the flags of our country, our province, our city and our club. There were banners showing the major accomplishments of last season proudly carried by the players who earned them.

Provincial, and federal representatives of government were all there for face time … "I bring greetings from our honorable Prime Minister …" said our local Member of Parliament Jeff Watson.

But after all that nonsense was done – the leaders of Turtle Club turned their attention to the great awards of the teams from last year.

The most notable was the award to one of the boy's baseball teams – who won the Ontario Championships last year, and made it to the final game of the Canadian championships … three outs away from going to the Little League World Series in Williamsport Pennsylvania.

So close.

So great.

And the signs around the Turtle Club line the buildings and fences – listing the numerous teams of each season – for decades past – fifty two years of legacy – denoting the players on teams who won district, provincial, and national championships. So many of these placards of honors that finding a place for this year's addition will be difficult.

And there with their team at the short stop position on the infield – stood my little girls – watching but not completely understanding the immenseness of this legacy being presented before them. But looking poised – waiting for their turn to achieve great things for the Turtle Club … when their turn comes.

Ashley-Rae's shout brought me out of my dream and back into that half-wake understanding of reality.

"Okay", I said almost cheerily.

I lifted my knees in the air – rolled to the edge of the bed and sprang out on my feet with a perfect landing that even a Russian gymnastics judge would have given me a perfect ten.

"I still got it", I thought to myself.

When we arrived at the ball park – the grounds were empty. Not a soul was there.

And it was wet.

I hadn't noticed until that moment that there must have been a big rainstorm last night.

I pulled out my iPhone and looked at the Turtle Club web page. There in big green print sat our answer to the question "where is everybody?"

"PARK IS CLOSED – DUE TO RAIN"

The girls were looking over my shoulder from the back seat of the jeep.

"That sucks", said Ashley-Rae.

"Don't say that", I corrected her.

Alannah sobbed: "But I was really looking forward to this game".

I turned the jeep around and headed back around the corner to our house.

Ashley-Rae was right.

That sucked.

And it makes me feel so proud that they both wanted to play so badly.

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