Baseball Pants and Big Gloves

I watched a three-and-a-half-foot-tall boy lug his bag up to the baseball diamond. Two bats sticking out of the end of the bag looked like two radio antennas trying to pick up a signal. He had a bright orange baseball jersey on with his team name written in that increasingly unfamiliar language called cursive. Sports jerseys might be the only way that cursive does not become an extinct species. Orioles laced its way across the front. Hopefully, his team was faring better than their namesake Baltimore franchise.

His bag was inflated with all his necessary equipment…glove, batting gloves (Must be a switch-hitter!), wristbands to keep the massive amount of perspiration from seeping into his glove, baseball spikes, an extra pair of color-coordinated socks, a bottle of Powerade, a towel, and a container of Hubba Bubba bubble gum. His baseball cap was carrying his baseball sunglasses on top ready to be placed in front of his eyes to catch any baseball hit in his direction.

He had the whole package and his parents had helped Dick’s Sporting Goods increase company profits with their inflated “nothing is too good for my child” prices. The boy had all the appearances of being ready for the All-Star Game. I didn’t hang around to see if he had the ability yet to catch anything but a cold.

Speaking of cold, it was early April! April in Colorado reminds me of that girl back in school who was rumored to be interested in you…and then she told you to get lost…and then said she was sorry…and then ignored you…and then hugged you…and then slugged you. That’s April in Colorado, a day of sunshine and warmth, followed by a wet and cold day, followed by a day in the ’70s, followed by a blizzard. You get the picture! Having fourth-graders decked out for a baseball game in weather that requires their parents to be huddled up in blankets, hand warmers, and a steaming cup of coffee is an idea generated by the local Polar Bear Club.

It’s slightly different than when I was a small fry growing up and playing baseball. Our season started in June and ran until the first week in August. No blankets were ever needed, except to perhaps sit on. Hand fans were more the norm.

I walked the five blocks from our house to the baseball field, located behind the high school, and next to the high school’s diamond. I didn’t need a bag. What I was wearing is what I played in.

I didn’t need a bottle of Powerade. There was a drinking fountain that sprayed out lukewarm water right next to the field.

I didn’t have baseball spikes. In fact, none of the kids on my team had spikes. I wore my white Chuck Tanner high-top Converses. My parents had splurged for a pair of black stretch baseball socks with white rings around the top section of the socks.

I was on the expansion team called the Rams. Expansion because too many kids had signed up and the league committee decided to make an additional team. My dad, who had never coached any team and had never played in his growing up years in the 1930s, volunteered to be the coach when no one else offered to. It was the only time he ever offered to coach a team and he thoroughly enjoyed his time with our rag-tag group of castoffs. The antics of another team’s coach angered him so much that he never coached again. But that’s another story.

Our hats had ironed-on R’s attached to them. As the season wore on the R wore out and began to slump like it had fallen asleep in church. My uniform was baggy, uncomfortable wool that could have fit a gorilla. My glove looked like a wicker cesta worn by jai alai players. I could catch anything within our zip code…if I could actually lift my glove! My brother, five years older, used the same glove. Thankfully, his games were never on the same days as mine so we could share. My parents saw no reason to get all extravagant and buy a second glove! That would be an unnecessary expense.

The photo that I still have of my baseball profile from that year makes me smile and feel a surge of warmth. I look fierce and determined, bending down like I’m about to scoop up a grounder hit to the shortstop. Baseball was fun.

There are things from our childhood that we have no desire to ever relive, but there are the other moments, the other experiences, that stay rich within our minds, memories of uncomplicated times, and simple-looking uniforms.

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