When I was 8 years old, I decided to play baseball. It looked like fun, my dad loves the sport so we watched a lot of it, and fuck it -- how hard could it be? It’s at least half luck.
So I told my parents I wanted to start playing baseball, and I signed up for a season of third grade fall ball. My team won every game, except one, when I had to be lent to the opposing team because they didn’t have enough players. They showed up to our game on the short side, but I didn’t change that, because I was at most two feet tall.
It sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, because I had an undefeated baseball season, but I was by far the worst player on a team of third graders. Do you know how hard it is to suck more than a bunch of 8-year-olds at anything? More than half of the players still needed our coach to tie their cleats. I had been tying my own shoes for years, thank you very much. All that tying my own shoes didn't make a difference on the diamond unfortunately.
I joined the team because I wanted to learn how to play baseball, and crappy Upstate New York little league is the only way to do that in crappy Upstate New York. I had never played before, how the hell was I supposed to be good at it already? Instead of teaching me the game, or giving me any instruction at all (I believe the technical term is “coaching”), my coach would remind me of how crappy I was and inform me that I couldn’t play anywhere other than right field because “We wanna get some outs today.” That was a grown man, speaking to an 8-year-old child.
I suppose he was just really gunning for that championship ring, although in our league, I believe the winners received gift certificates to Wendy’s. The runners-up got gift certificates to Wendy’s as well. So did the third-place team, the fourth-place team, all the way down to the dickbutt-place team. What I’m trying to say is that it didn’t really matter how well we did, I just wanted to play and have fun. That may remind you of the lesson coaches are supposed to be teaching to the young children on their team, not the other way around. He only managed to teach me to hate baseball. Jokes on him though, I didn't teach him shit. Didn't even try to.
Remember when I talked about the other team needing to borrow a player in order to field a team against us? I will be the first to admit that a lot of my childhood memories have faded over the years (kids are stupid, and also I've drank a lot since then), but this one sticks out in my mind. The opposing coach came to our dugout before the game, and asked our coach for another player so they wouldn’t have to forfeit. I wish I had a video of how quickly I was selected to be on the other team. Joke’s on that dick, though: I got my first (and only) hit of the season that game, and scored my first (and also, only) run. It’s tough to score runs when you bat ninth in a league that ends the inning when you've gone through the entire lineup, especially when that happens more often than getting any outs.
My on-base percentage was amazing, because I probably walked every other time I was at bat (it’s tough to make you understand how short I was). I would walk down to first base and then just keep going, to take my position in right field.
When he wasn’t chastising children, or trading them to opposing teams at the slightest opportunity, he was providing absolutely no baseball instruction. I remember one practice when I failed to tag up and advance on a fly ball. Instead of constructive criticism, he yelled, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TAG UP!?” My response, “Because I don’t know what that means” which didn’t assuage his anger. It got me benched for the rest of practice. What on earth does benching a child during practice accomplish? How was that supposed to make me a less shitty baseball player?
Whatever his plan was, it didn’t work, and I’ve been holding that grudge for 16 years (and counting). I continued to suck the rest of the season. And since I never played again, once I started playing beer league softball, I just started embarrassing myself. I went two seasons before I got a hit in slow pitch softball, and just last week I was the victim of a double play after a popup to the shortstop. And I can still hear his voice: "WHY DIDN'T YOU TAG UP!?"