Friday, March 10, 2006

Life's Passions

Here is an installment of space filling non-poker related material to maul over as you kill time at work.

As stated before, I am nothing if not a baseball fan. I live and breathe America’s pastime with a passion that borders on addictive. This mind consuming love for baseball isn’t hidden in a closet waiting for spring to arrive; it is sitting on my shoulder so that the world can get a better view of the depths of its affection for the game.

It all started as a wee little boy. My father took me to a White Sox doubleheader back in the early 70”s. As I gaze back in time I can still smell the popcorn and hotdogs elegantly mixing with the smells of stale beer and the dripping sewer pipes that was old Comisky Park. Wilber Wood pitched both games of the doubleheader that day if my recollection serves me. The sun was shinning and I had the pleasure of seeing one of the truly great things America is known for. Baseball.

The beginning of my playing career had me playing Cub Scout ball. It consisted of underhand throw it in there pitching that meant even the worst players could hit the ball. It was a great experience that tested young boys courage as their team lost the championship game after an undefeated season. My passion for the game could be clearly seen from the tear-stained handkerchief my mother carried after the game.

During the following spring I had the opportunity to try out for Little League. I was 9, going on 10, and the youngest player trying out for the team. It was a frightening time as I warmed up with monstrously sized 11-12 year old men. I decided that the outfield was the best place for me because I could easily hide among the throng overweight power hitters. After two hours of fly balls and hitting I felt overmatched and intimidated but, with the encouragement of the coach, I was determined to give it my all at the final tryout. That night my father and I had a discussion about staying in Cub Scout ball for one more year. He felt that making the leaping up to Little League may be more then I could handle. My arguments of taking on the challenge and playing at the highest-level possible was absorbed and reconciled within my father that day. When the time came for the final tryout, I was prepared to do whatever was required to fulfill my goal of becoming an outfielder for that team. The only problem was that the coach wanted me to play seconds base. Thus, the beginning of a lifetime on the infield had begun.

One of the great things about growing up in the town I did was that there was a Men’s Fastpitch Softball League there. It consisted of a dozen or so teams from the surrounding communities and played every night of the week. This initiation into the game of fastpitch didn’t seem significant at the time but would eventually been seen as another fabricating point in my life. I don’t have any idea of the countless hour I spent watching these men play a version my inner passion but I grew to admire and respect their own passion for the game. As time went by my brother-in-law started to play and he eventually asked me to join his team when I was old enough. I played some but it interfered with summer baseball so it got pushed aside for the time being.

After college, and realizing my baseball career had gone as far as it could, I began to wander. I took a job at a chemical company and decided that partying was the thing to do. The most important thing on Friday was to pay the bills, fill up the gas tank, get lunchmeat and bread for the week, and party the rest by Sunday morning. Good times. Anyway, after a year of sliding further into the abyss that was my life, my brother-in-law asked me to come play ball. It’s a 15 game schedule and we only played on Friday nights. At the same time I saw an open tryout for a team in the Aurora City League. The Aurora League was the premier league of the day and I had spent more than a few nights watching the games that it provided. So I make the Aurora team and join my brother-in-laws team but openly wonder how I’m going to play 30-40 games in one season. Four years later I’m playing for one of the top three teams in the state and nationally ranked. I went from wondering how I was going to play 30-40 games to playing well over 100 games in four years. I still liked to party but I had meaning in my life.

Someplace in between the doldrums and the ecstasy I met my wife. I volunteered to help coach a women’s slowpitch team during my off days and in she walked at the first practice. It wasn’t much of a courtship as between us we played ball almost every day of the week. But it was a match made in heaven.

Through the years of weekend tourneys and late night games, I’ve come to see how ones passion influences other parts of their lives. How the absence of passion can leave a person cold and unfeeling. These experiences I’ve gone through have left a lifetime impression on my soul that will shape me forever.

Just like the long rides to the middle of no place that instigates idle chatter to pass the time. These moments are when you truly learn to understand someone.

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