I tried out for high school ball the following year.
I hit longer, straighter flies than I had at tryouts the year before.
The coach—who slept on a basement bed in the very apartment where I delivered my middle school coach’s newspaper—already knew the story.
‘He’ll hit in tryouts. Goose-egg during the season.’
Rated beneath even freshman team standards, I wandered from baseball.
I took up track. The coach asked what I was interested in.
‘Pole vault,’ I said, feeling adventurous. ‘Or something like that.’
‘There is nothing else like pole vault.’
Continued from previous: reflections on legacies and how they’re passed down. Parts I&II below:
I. Coach had me crouch at the plate.
Draw walks. That was the idea. I did as I was told.
The older boys in the line-up would hit me home.
I finished the season small and compact but lacking hand-eye coordination.
The Little League coach, who piloted F-16s with the Air National Guard, had trained me to shrug pitches.
But shouldn’t he have had me reaching for the stars?
A few seasons of that and I tried out for middle school ball with bleak prospects.
II. My father ran bread routes for Wonder most mornings.
He delayed the deliveries to throw me curves and fastballs when tryouts came around.
He zeroed my hands and eyes, quickened my bat to the rawhide in the pre-dawn twilight.
Confident still in the afternoon, I showed for tryouts with a quick bat and hit high, arcing flies far past right field.
The coach, who also was a customer on my paper route, made me second string on a team that went 9-0.
He needn’t have bothered. Why tire his ragged arm on me at the end of batting practice when he had a team of hitters?
I finished the season 0 for 12.