Yesterday, I got to take a special trip to a wonderful place that I have been wanting to visit for quite some time now. You know that place I’m talking about. Sure, there are different names for it …as for me, I like to refer to it as back in the day.
It was as if me and my all time best buddy Robbie Robertson hopped into a DeLorean and entered Oct. 10, 1977 into the controls …filled the flux capacitor up with plutonium (yea we stole it from some Libyans) …kicked it up to 88 mph and went Back to the Future.
We were given the opportunity to play ball at the home of the Chattanooga Lookouts. Beautiful AT&T Field, with its crayon-green grass perfectly combed and manicured and the infield groomed like a Sunday bunker at Augusta. It was a fall afternoon that God purposely chose to push aside the cotton ball clouds that had covered us since the weekend for just this moment, just for a little while. A loving act which would allow some special folks up there the opportunity to have the absolute best seats in the house. Yep, that’s what I believe and I double dog dare you to try and prove me wrong.
We ran, actually it was a slightly aggressive walk, to the outfield and warmed up by simply soft-tossing a baseball back and forth. Sure, we stretched some, but not too much …we didn’t want to actually pull a muscle while stretching to try and prevent pulling a muscle. Trust me, the irony of such an event would have been spoken of in sarcastic tones around these parts for the rest of my days.
We soon were shagging fly balls, we were fielding grounders and we were laughing often at our total lack of range. You know, the weird thing about playing baseball to me is that when you are on a ball field, for the rest of your life, you know exactly in your mind what you’re supposed to do and how to do it. Why? Because in my opinion, baseball is a collection of skills …learned skills, mixed with some athletic ability. Now, I was fortunate to have some wonderful coaches over the years who taught me things …some I could do well and some, well let’s just say there’s a reason not everybody gets to play on TV.
Now, knowing what to do and actually performing the task are two totally different subjects. I have found, that as you get older, your mind and this much more mature body that you now possess do not communicate nearly as well as I feel they should. Actually, the mind still does its part …the body, well, therein lies the problem.
Finally, it was my turn … my very first turn in the batting cage … a moment that for some reason I had no idea how much I had wanted until I found out recently I would have the opportunity. Wooden bats, the way God and Mr. Doubleday intended …wooden bats that I had not swung in over thirty five years and live pitching …for goodness sake, anybody can hit a blame pitching machine consistently.
I slowly made my way into the cage and dug in …holding an Old Hickory size 33.5, a good size. A few deep breaths and the first pitch is on its way. Now, I would like to say I lined it back up the middle, or perhaps dusted the left field line for extra bases. Truthfully, I topped it into the dirt …but, I made contact and I didn’t hurt myself in the process. Soon, I was indeed lining balls to different spots of the field and yes, I even got into a few. Connecting with the sweet spot on a good wooden bat is still a true moment of ecstasy, similar to warm Krispy Kremes or sliding under flannel sheets on a cold January night. It just flat out feels good …forget the descriptives.
I got several turns throughout the day and I’m here to tell you, being between the foul lines is still one of the greatest places to be on earth. Robbie would take several turns in the cage as well and yes, he hit it just a bit further at times …he always could.
Overall, we put the ball in play consistently, we fielded our positions as well as could be expected and we didn’t finish the day on the DL. Hey, I’ve been the watching the playoffs this week and the way I look at it, we had a better day than A-Rod has been having all week long and for anyone interested, Robbie and I would do it again at a fraction of his cost.
Yes, it was a glorious day and yes, I was eighteen again, if only for just a little while. If you want to know the truth, I wouldn’t want to go back to that age for a long period of time anyway.
I’m hoping Russell and Sonny were proud …but you know, I have a pretty good feeling they had just as much fun as we did. Again, my double dog dare challenge is still out there.
On a side note, I caught myself still dropping that back shoulder at times ….gotta work on that.