Take me out to the ballgame…
(Published in the April 7, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio and Birch Run/Bridgeport [Mich.] Herald)
From A to Zowie
Take me out to the ball game…
By Richard Zowie
This past Saturday, my wife and I went out to watch our two youngest sons partake in baseball camp in Vassar. Both will be playing baseball this summer, Robert in the minor leagues and Charles in the majors. Robby’s team is the Rockhounds while we don’t know Chip’s yet. I’m hoping it’ll be the Astros.
The camp was pretty exciting to watch as all the young ballplayers learned the basics of hitting, fielding and throwing. They then played a simulated game.
Watching both play baseball brought back memories for me of the two years I spent playing little league baseball in Alvin, Texas (about 30 miles southeast of Houston) in the early 1980s. My first year I played on the Orioles and the second year on the Braves. This, of course, was back in the days where the only thing tougher than trying to hit a home run was wearing the 100 percent polyester uniform pants in the humid heat of the Texas Gulf Coast.
Richard Zowie, Little Leaguer with the Orioles, Alvin, Texas, circa 1981.
Having played two years of little league ball doesn’t qualify one as an expert on the game, but there are a few things I try to tell my sons that I hope will turn them into better ballplayers than what I was:
One, don’t swing at every pitch you see. If you swing at terrible pitches, you’ll become the opposing pitcher’s best friend and will all but guarantee he won’t throw anything hittable to you.
Two, focus on making contact with the ball first, and then, when you’ve become good at that, then advance to trying to crush the ball into Saginaw Bay.
Three, if your coach gives you advice that differs from your Dad (that’s me) tells you, always defer to your coach.
Four, always hit the cutoff man.
Five, baseball’s a game, and games should be fun.
Case in point: Rick, my teammate back in the day with both the Orioles and Braves. Rick was a big, friendly kid who always had a smile on his face. He also liked taking chances on the field.
In one game, Rick hit a bouncer to the shortstop, who promptly overthrew the first baseman. Rick was safe at first, and while the ball wasn’t too far away, Rick decided to try for second.
The first baseman’s throw to second bounced away towards the shortstop. Rick then ran for third. The throw beat him, but the third baseman dropped the ball.
Yep, you guessed it, Rick ran towards home where the throw arrived late. We all celebrated his “home run”.
Watching him run around the bases (which was actually more like a slow jog), it was almost like slow motion and as if the theme to “Chariots of Fire” was blaring on the loudspeakers.
We also had a feisty female head coach that year (back in those good ol’ boy days in Texas, this was very unusual). If I remember right, her name was Donna Miller. I’ll never forget that game my Dad attended. Normally a quiet man, Dad wondered aloud why the team was letting a woman coach.
And, yes, she heard him and glared at him. That probably explains why she seemed pretty sour towards me after that.