Take Me Out Of The Ballgame

Driving past the very active North Compo Little League fields recently, I flashed back to my own baseball experience, all those years ago.

I sucked.

Sorry — I didn’t mean that.  I should have said:  I really sucked.

I loved baseball.  I truly did.  I just couldn’t play it.

Despite years of experience with the cul-de-sac pastime called “running bases,” and plenty of impromptu recess games at Burr Farms Elementary, the organized version of Little League lost me.

I remember being assigned each year to Cap League teams, finally making the minors as a 12-year-old charity case.

I recall standing endlessly in right field, knowing that the rare ball that came my way would never land in my upraised glove.  (This was in the pre-contact lens, pre-pre-Lasek surgery days).

And I will never forget standing at home plate, happily trying to follow the coach’s instructions to not swing — “just get a walk.”  I was 2-foot-1, so the advice was wise.  Still, even 9-year-old pitchers managed to throw with Sandy Koufax-like accuracy against me.  I can’t recall ever making it all the way to first.

Going to Yankee Stadium was fun.  Going to the Coleytown Elementary field was not.

I still like the game, particularly because it offers such a leisurely opportunity to second-guess strategy, look ahead to the next inning, and answer email.

I’m not anti-baseball.  I’m just pro-not-playing-a-sport-I-suck-at.

4 responses to “Take Me Out Of The Ballgame

  1. But you were a good softball pitcher.

  2. Steve Baumann

    Before there was soccer in Westport, there was baseball. Little League only ran from Memorial Day to Fourth of July. The rest of the year we played stickball, stoop ball, hit the bat, and wiffle ball in Randy Elliott’s front yard on Clinton Ave.

    On January 1, 1962 the temperature reached 60 degrees, baseball weather! As I sprinted towards the front door I stumbled on the rug and went head first through the glass storm door. Thank goodness I had on my baseball hat and glove. Only a few Dr. Beinfield stitches were needed and I got home in time to get in the game.

    Parents were seldom at the American League games at Coleytown (we rode our bikes to the field), coaches were laid back (except the Raider’s), and we were as thrilled with the Yoo-Hoo and Ice Pops as we were with the outcome of the game. We even heard rumblings that there was another league on the south side of town and they had a star named Thumper.

    My brother and I played on the same Babe Ruth team, Schaeffer’s. I pitched and he caught, then he would pitch and I caught. We were playing the Arrow at Coleytown and bases were loaded and Jon Doll, legendary power hitter, stepped to the plate. Our manager, the wonderfully understated and kind Bill Deegan, walked to the mound and said to my brother, “I think you should walk him.” Paul replied, “I can handle him.” The pitch came right over the plate and Doll let loose with a smash that bounced once before hitting Coleytown Elementary School. The bases cleared and then we all looked at each other and burst out laughing. Bill Deegan laughed the loudest.

    Good times.

    • Steve “Reno” Baumann speaks the truth. And for those who don’t know the name: He was one of the best all-around athletes in Westport history. He did it all.