When I write, I often think about my childhood and how little events then have a profound impact upon my life today. This is one of those stories.
Sometimes, like when I watch a baseball game, I have a recurring memory of growing up in Richboro playing little league.
The year was 1982.
It was July and we were out in a non descript, large school field in Bucks County. The game was just starting on a makeshift baseball field that didn't even have a backstop. Just some worn lines in the dry green grass, with each corner of the baseball diamond marked by an old square dirt stained canvas base, lined up for kids in the 8 to 10 year old age group.
I was playing second base that day. By this time in my life, I played little league for maybe two or three years, and it was my first time, ever, that I was playing in the infield. Most of my years playing little league I was in the outfield, and thought, at the time, I was good at it. I remember a parent once asked me after a game, with my brother and father standing there, what position I played.
I told him proudly that I was a "right fielder".
My brother later pulled me aside, telling me that I shouldn't be proud to play right field - that is where they put the losers, the kids who can't play baseball are shuttled into right field.
I was nervous. My dad was standing off to the side wearing his trademark shaded sunglasses, next to the green military canvas bags that held our baseball bats, watching the infield. It was the first inning, and I remember standing at second base, in the classic crouch position, ready for the first hit.
Imagine my surprise that the first hit of the game comes to me, a grounder!
I try to field the ball, but bobble it and by the time I get it to first base, the runner is safe.
First hit and I goofed.
My dad, the coach, waves in the right fielder, and replaces him with me, right after that play, in front of everyone watching on my team and the other team. I could just feel the eyes of everyone on me as I took the long walk from second base into right field. The embarassment was palpable.
I remember standing in right field and I was embarassed and angry at the same time. Any interest I had in playing organized sports died that day. It was humiliating. I never forgot that day, and often I could be doing anything - washing my car, walking in a park, watching a baseball game, sitting at my desk at work and i'll remember that day.
I don't blame my dad. I think, in his mind, he knew I was over my head and he was a competitive guy, and wanted to win. He just made a move to fix the situation, like any coach would do, but handled it poorly. If anything he should have made the switch between innings.
Kind of tough to deal with at ten years old.