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Thursday, October 30, 2014


Me and baseball, well, we got off to a bad start. Here's the photo of me holding the trophy from my first season playing the game. Macek's Auto won first place in our four team league. If memory serves, we beat Harkins Oil for the title.

It was in no way even tangentially thanks to my contributions. Zarda Dairy was the Bad News Bears of our league, and I probably should have found a way to defect to their ranks, my ineptitude at the sport might have put me in the bottom quartile of their squad, but I wouldn't have stuck out quite so much.

Part of the problem was me getting my growth in early, being the big, awkward boy who runs like a girl and doesn't know where he begins and ends. Part of it was my team, the same bullies, assholes and twerps who made Cub Scouts a miserable experience. I don't know why I signed up for the baseball thing, in my head, as I wrote my name on the list, I thought it would be different, but of course it wasn't. And where in Scouts I could honestly chalk the abuse up to my peers being jerks, in baseball their abuse had the veneer of truth.

I had a zero batting average. That's not a joke for exaggeration, I didn't hit a fair ball during a game the whole year. The coach would tell me the ball can't hurt you but that's bullshit. I got on base, usually when I was struck by a pitch. In fairness to the pitchers, we were third graders being offered a first chance to play hardball and throw overhand, so the pitcher was the one kid on the whole team who could throw a ball as far as the plate. He had no control, no idea where the ball would go but it would at least cover the distance most of the time.

The collective groan that would issue from the bench when it was my at bat would be met with the coach saying, "Cut that out, he's on your team." If you've ever met a third grade boy, you know how effective this admonishment was.

My fielding was even worse, as my fear of being struck by the ball was compounded by my attention span, which even today can often be measured in nanoseconds. They'd play be in deep center where most didn't have the power to hit and then put a gifted sprinter at shortstop with the understanding he had to cover for me. Because in the unlikely event a ball got out to where I was standing, thinking about cute girls and whether I could ever become a member of KISS, and I happened to notice there was a round incoming, I'd cover my head with my mitt and duck. Then, after the ball was on the ground, I'd pick it up and throw it nowhere near anyone else on my team while the kids shouted invectives about just how hard I sucked.

Then, after the 1985 World Series my hometown team the Royals went kind of dormant until this October. Any baseball fan that was left inside me after that traumatic playing experience was systematically killed by 100 loss season after 100 loss season. My National League team, the Pirates, didn't get all the way to the bottom until the early 90s, but they got there and did their part to make me regret ever looking at the standings.

The Pirates made the Wild Card last year and this, and which was cool even if they were one and done. The Bucs got company this year with the Royals, and I fantasized (even predicted) a Royals-Pirates World Series (which would be awesome because no matter the outcome I win).

Except the Royals actually started winning. Hell, they couldn't seem to remember how to lose a game for a couple of weeks. They swept so many series in the playoffs people were carrying brooms into the stadium as props and there was serious talk of a sweep in the World Series. Well, there was until that first game when Mad Bum calmly smashed our streak. Then he did it again on Sunday night, and I thought we were safe. Besides the stat that 90% of seventh games go to the home team in the Series, I didn't think they'd play him on short rest. And if they did, I thought he'd be a shell of what he was Sunday night.

I want to hate Hunter Pence and Madison Bumgarner for having such a great World Series but they actually carried themselves with so much class that the only knock I can really find for the Giants is that their fans basically rioted after the victory. I think Kansas City has enough class and poise that if we'd won the series, nobody would get shot and there wouldn't be trash fires in intersections as a way of celebrating.

The cliché is to thank the Royals for having such a great season, for in my case re-introducing me to being a baseball fan at all (call me a fair weather fan, I'll cop to it). I'm not there, I still see the loss as bitter and unacceptable. But I guess they won me over, because I keep thinking that Shields can go elsewhere for bigger money (he's supposed to be an ace, but Ventura is more of one to my eye), Billy Butler might or might not be back (I'd love to see someone finish his career with his original team, though), but the guys who made this an interesting and exciting October are all back next year, and even Giants fans don't think they can win in an odd-numbered year.

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