I was born and raised in Dallas, which of course means that I never had a great local baseball team to root for as a child. The Texas Rangers have never won a pennant, much less the World Series. That being said, I do have a couple of vivid memories of playing teeball as a child, and some later baseball memories.
In the photo to the right, I am proudly wearing my Cardinals uniform, which was the YMCA teeball team that I played for when I was about six. The boat of a car in the background was my grandmother's giant Chrysler (she was exceptionally brand-loyal and a huge Lee Iacocca fan). She had a series of giant Chryslers over the years. This photo was taken in front of our east Dallas home.
When I was playing teeball, my grandfather (who was really a natural inventor, even though he only finished the sixth grade) created a makeshift adjustable tee for me, either because we didn't have the money to purchase a real one, or just because he enjoyed making things so much. I don't recall exactly how he did it, but I do distinctly remember that the exterior was made from pieces of garden hose wrapped in athletic tape. As you can see, I hadn't yet perfected my swing when this photo was taken. 🙂
During the games that we played, I was always a good batter, yet my fielding abilities left something to be desired, so I was pretty much always in the outfield. I have always envied guys who could play shortstop effectively, as this was a skill set I didn't possess. However, I was a valuable addition to the team as a slugger. I could crank the ball well over the heads of the opposing team with some regularity.
I have to admit that many of my memories while playing for the Cardinals are sort of crystallized into a singular point in time. In fact, when I first heard about this contest, there was a 20-second mental video that began to play over and over in my mind. It will seem strange to you after you read about it, since it wasn't particularly glamorous. It was a warm evening in Dallas, and I can see the ball on the tee as I stepped up to bat. In my mind's eye, I am much shorter, so both the field and the number of fans watching seemed very large at the time (perhaps 100 people were in attendance). It was a perfect swing (for me) and I can see the ball as it arcs into the outfield and drops to the ground. After that, it gets fuzzy. I know that it was a base hit, perhaps even a double. I apologize as I realize that this is probably a little anticlimactic.
Most of the time, since my parents divorced when I was a toddler, my mom was the one playing catch with me. I admired her courage in trying this, since her eye-hand motor coordination was….well,….mom-like.
I recall getting my own glove as a gift, and I actually saw it at my mom's house the last time we were there visiting. It still says "JASON" scrawled in my six-year old handwriting with a permanent marker (clearly, since that was just over 30 years ago).
My only other vivid memories of baseball involved being struck by a line drive that cracked a rib when I was in the sixth grade, and catching a Chili Davis home run when the Giants played the Rangers in the late 80's. It bounced behind us, and I just sort of stuck my hand out and caught it before it popped back onto the outfield. Since I didn't wear a glove to the games, this was a fortunate and cool story, and that ball is also at my mom's house now, probably in a box somewhere. I guess I owe it to my mom to get some of those things out of her house, huh?
So, there you have it – these are my somewhat disjointed and moderately interesting baseball/teeball memories. Thanks for taking a minute to read this one!