Cal Ripken Jr. had it right when he said you could be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball.
This was the summer I stopped being a kid.
For the first time that I can remember, I didn’t play baseball.
No crack of the bat, no feeling of the bat meeting the ball or the pop of the ball into the mitt.
What I missed most, along with the camaraderie of the team, was that one-on-one challenge of stepping into the batter’s box against the pitcher. He, or she on occasion in the fastpitch church league, was trying to throw it past me, and I was trying to do my best to hit it.
I figure I must have played baseball/fastpitch softball for about 50 years dating back to my first games on the fields of the Atlanta, Ill. Little League. There were no T-ball games back in those days. You went straight to the real stuff.
Over the span of 50 years (parts of six decades), I played Little League, high school, American Legion and men’s baseball up to age 31. Along the way, when I moved to Princeton, I joined the fastpitch church league and played that for 30 years (overlapping some with my baseball days).
While your heart may be telling you one thing, your body is telling you something else.
Age has a habit of taking the kid out of us when it comes to playing the game.
I had given some thought how I would have liked to have walked away from the game. If I would have ever managed to tap some power from years past and hit a home run, I would have made it a walk-off for good home run. That never happened as homers turned into doubles, and doubles turned into singles (ie: couldn’t make it to second base any more).
But I had plenty of memorial moments to walk away with a smile. Even had a pair of walk-off walks in my final at-bats after a leadoff hit.
I’d like to thank the guys around the league for encouraging me to play and their praise about playing. I was overjoyed to meet a longtime church league fan this summer who told me she was sorry to see me hang them up and was going to miss me.
Admittedly, it was hard going back to the park this summer to watch the church league, because I knew I’d rather be out in the field than in the stands.
Baseball provided lasting memories, from playing catch with my dad to years later, playing in the backyard with my two girls when the roles were reversed.
It is truly a kid’s game, even when old guys like me try to play it.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.