The lessons learned playing in the 9th inning

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The pitch was low and outside.

The TV was set at full volume.

He liked his baseball loud.

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It was a tiny room occupied by a man whose ears had outlived their usefulness.

I wanted to put up a poster telling everyone who walked by his door who he was and what he’d done.

He told me that his father had not paid income taxes for a number of years. It wasn’t because he didn’t owe them. He thought that taxes were not constitutional. He couldn’t be bothered with them. He was bothered by the IRS. Like the song says, “He fought the law and the law won.”

An insurance company offered the healing power of prayer, but my friend prayed for better days. I prayed that he might have the same. Prayers made for others are the best.

Prayers are often selfish like those given by the driver who had driven around for an hour looking for a parking place. Finally, in desperation, he pleaded, “Lord, if you’ll give me a parking place, I will abandon my evil ways.”

He’d no more than said that, when a light shone through the clouds, illuminating a nearby parking spot. It wasn’t just close; it had a new car parked on each side. That lessened the chances of getting a door ding.

The man added, “Never mind. I found one. Amen.”

We make wishes as we blow out the candles of a birthday cake, tug on a wishbone or see a falling star. Wishes are so important for those in the early stages of their lives, but the older a person gets, the bigger the wishes become. We wish for world peace instead of a BB gun or a doll.

I knew what he was wishing. He was wishing he could go home. He was on third base.

I watched the baseball game with him. A batter, who had adjusted his batting gloves often in the hopes of getting a hit, grounded out. Somebody had to make an out. It’d have been a hit if a glove hadn’t gotten in the way. The game was not well played. A ducksnort here. A dying quail there. Hitters flailing about as if they were attempting to swat a gnat with a bat. There is no Batter Business Bureau to call. Four score and seven errors ago, the inning ended mercifully.

I recall years of playing ball in cow pastures, vacant lots and snazzy ballparks. One of my first gloves was a hand-me-down from a girl. It was a hermit.

My neighbor Crandall told me that he crowded the plate. Friends and relatives stood all around him. He claimed that he threw singles back, but admitted there were days when he couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. The game is humbling. Once, in a daring and unexpected move, he stole the scorebook. He’d misread the coach’s signals.

I enjoy baseball and softball. I’ve even watched cricket matches. I like any game with bats. It has something to do with my name.

Baseball lends itself to quotes. I have many favorites. I culled them to six.

“Good pitching will beat good hitting any time, and vice versa.”— Bob Veale

“The charm of baseball is that, dull as it may be on the field, it is endlessly fascinating as a rehash.”— Jim Murray

“The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.” — Bryant Gumbel

“I don’t love baseball. I don’t love most of today’s players. I don’t love the owners. I do love, however, the baseball that is in the heads of baseball fans. I love the dreams of glory of 10-year-olds, the reminiscences of 70-year-olds. The greatest baseball arena is in our heads, what we bring to the games, to the telecasts, to reading newspaper reports.” — Stan Isaacs

“Why does everybody stand up and sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ when they’re already there?” — Larry Anderson

“Things could be worse. Suppose your errors were counted and published every day, like those of a baseball player.” — Anonymous

I enjoyed my visit, but I needed to get going. I had dirt to scratch and eggs to lay.

I thought about turning off the TV, but I worried that it might wake him.

I hoped he was hitting a home run in his dreams.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.