Monday, September 20, 2004

Balls and Stones

I always hated outfield.

I was reminded of this fact during my wedding. My Aunt Marilyn sent a bunch of stories about me to Ric Knight, who was our Master of Ceremonies and of all the choices he was given, he chose this one.

I'm a big baseball fan. Love the sport, both for playing and watching - though I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to being a team player. While living in Kleinburg, my mother made sure that I was involved with as many social organizations as she could handle, and given a choice of sports she chose baseball. From this choice I was initially very excited. Then reality hit me.

I was a bit of a social pyria in Kleinburg. Most kids found great pleasure in teasing and beating the crap out of me, for multiple reasons. One - I came from a lower middle-class family in what was generally a very upper-middle class town, so couldn't afford all the cool fashions that were expected of me. My mother never understood when I complained about being forced to wear rubber boots to school, but of course she didn't have to experience the school bully gleefully ripping them off me and shoving them up my ass. Not fun. Two - after awhile, the teasing and beatings get to you, so I developed a major emotional problem - breaking down at the slightest taunting. Sadly, the Principals and most of the Teachers never supported me through this, so I had to find my own escapes...this including leaving school property completely during recess...though I found myself caught and in front of the principals office more times than I could count. Hey, better than being tied to a tree and kicked repeatedly by girls and boys in your class.

If you think I'm exaggerating...sadly I'm not. These were the days when bullying kids wasn't just accepted, it was expected. Bigger + Meaner + Large Body Count = Cooler.

Worst of all is I hit puberty at the age of eight, so I was dealing with weird emotions at an age where most everybody else couldn't fathom. And I had no idea what the hell was going on so couldn't really explain myself. Even if I did know...what eight year old kid could really talk about this stuff to an adult?

Enough about my pain...back to the game. Because I wasn't cool like everybody else, who had years of T-Ball experience (go coolcats go!), I was immediately positioned in Centre Field, with bigger and faster teammates in the Left and Right fields, so that I was just a glorified Garden Gnome. Boredom would set in, so I would sit down and look for Fossils in the stones. I'd lose total focus on the game. Then some good batter would notice my lack of attention and hit one my way so I got yelled at by the other players.

I wasn't that great of a hitter then either. My eyes had started to bother me for awhile, and I just couldn't keep my eye on the ball like they suggested. Even when I did start to make contact with it, I would hit my poor pitcher (always felt bad for that) or it would head directly into somebody else's glove.

One day I was excited to hit a full Grand-Slam and won our team the game...but there is one secret to that I never told anybody.

My eyes were closed - it was a lucky shot.

It wasn't until we moved away from Kleinburg in 1985 that we found out the problem with my eyes. I needed glasses...and badly, too. I started playing baseball in Georgina and found my niche. I was a great backcatcher, and my batting was well respected too. I still wasn't Mr. Popularity, for completely different reasons (another day perhaps), but at least for one moment in time when I'd pull-off some great play in the game, I was smiled at and not kicked.

I miss playing the game. It's been my biggest gauge for how much I've grown and for what I've overcome to be the person I am today. I've spent plenty of time in Kleinburg since as a visitor. I've been around all those old diamonds and tried to think of any good memories...but sadly they just aren't there. It's like the old me died when we moved away, and a fresh ten year old boy began, purging most of my angst in the process. I forgot what it was like to be that lonely little boy out on the diamond.

I can't do that. I need to remember...because if I see my own child doing the same thing, or if I'm coaching and see other kids doing it then I need to know how to help. I can't be one of those same people who just ignored my problems and made me suffer unnecessarily.

Don't leave them out in the field alone.

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