Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Baseball


I’m reading “Is This a Great Game or What” by Tim Kurkjian which inspired this post about my obsession with baseball.

My inauspicious baseball career ended when I was about 13 years old and I saw my 1st curveball. I was facing Brian McFadden, a tall, good-humored red head with a hell of a heater and a nasty curve. I remember standing at the plate all skinny, gangly and awkward waiting for the pitch. Brian threw out of the wind up and the ball headed right for the ear hole in my batting helmet. I dove to the ground and was laying facedown in the dirt when the ball broke about 3 feet and the umpire called me out on strikes. I walked back to the dugout, face red from the hot Texas sun and prepubescent embarrassment. That was it for my playing days. I couldn’t hit a fastball (much less a curve), had a rag arm, and was a mess in the field at all positions - 3rd, catcher, 2nd. I wasn’t that bad at 1st but that’s reserved for the sluggers so that was out. I guess you could say I was a 0 tool player.

I grew up a fan of the game in the baseball crazy nation of Venezuela idolizing Pete Rose. My favorite team was the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds of the 70’s. Davey Concepción, a Venezuelan, was the shortstop at that time, Johnny Bench caught and Joe Morgan wasn’t a douche bag. After moving to Houston in the 80’s, I tried to be a fan of the Astros. The ‘Stros had a good season in 1980 but otherwise they were pretty awful all my years in Houston. Going to see baseball games at the Astrodome, as impressive as the place was in its day with its monochromatic jumbotron with the snoring bull, and the PA announcer “Now batting… Jooooseeee Cruuuuuuzzz!!” was like watching ants run around in a dark cave. I lost my love for the game. I was done with baseball for the next fifteen years or so.

Fast forward to 1998. I was selling advertising in St. Joseph, Michigan when a friend and co-worker called me to see if I wanted to go to Chicago for the weekend. After a big night in the big city, we drove up to Wrigley, bought bleacher seats, sat out in the warm spring sun and watched Sammy Sosa belt a home run to right field and a Cubs victory. My passion for baseball was revived and I decided then and there in those bleachers that I was going to move to Chicago and become a Cubs fan. Less than six months later, I was moving into my studio apartment in Lincoln Park eager to start my new life and new addiction, one that would bring me untold joy and heartbreak.

There’s nothing quite like being at the ballpark on a nice sunny afternoon, scorecard and pencil in hand recording the 6-4-3 double plays and the WTP (went to piss) and WFB (went for beer). With the help of my buddy Doug Bacile, we put together the immaculate scorecard while keeping tabs of the Dodgers and the Mets at the old Shea. There’s nothing quite like having a few beers with dear friends, watching a pitcher hurl a rock-hard ball 98 miles an hour, and the unmistakable sound of a solidly hit liner that you know, even without looking, is headed right for the bleachers.

But hey this blog is about Peru and my adventures here. Peace Corps Goal 2 is to help promote a better understanding of Peruvian people on behalf of the American people. So to that goal, when I was on vacation in Lima I played softball at the Roosevelt School, a very high-end school that the children of expats and upper-crust Peruvians attend. I played on the Hilte team managed by an expat Texas boy and Roosevelt School alum, Tommy Akers. Peru is not a baseball nation. It’s all soccer (and the women play lights-out volleyball). I went in with the preconceived notion that the Peruvians weren’t going to be very good at softball but was pleasantly surprised at their skill level. They could knock the cover off the ball and had impressive defensive fielding abilities. Granted, most of the folks on the field had played in the USA, Columbia, Japan, or Venezuela but many played baseball right here in Peru.

Can’t wait to play again and screw the Cardinals – Assh*les.

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