Archive for February, 2011

pitchers and catchers

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Its a cold windy day here in Brook Hollow this morning. The one who holds my heart started my day with a laugh, a friend on facebook was expressing the struggle to face yet another winter storm, and I’m listening to the Black Eyed Peas. Four days from now Spring training camps will open in Arizona and Florida. Pitchers and Catchers will appear and begin their preparations for the upcoming year of baseball! Like the Daytona 500, Pitchers and Catchers reporting is a sign that winter is fading and spring is just around the corner. We all made it through another year!

Some people don’t think much of the game of baseball, and I’ll agree its a bit slow compared to basketball, but it was always intended to be slow calm game. Its always been a comfort to me, sometimes its a disappointment (anybody remember a fan named Bartman?) but its one of the only games played in a park, not a stadium. A park, and the whole purpose of the game is to “earn” a run “home.” Growing up, I think we played “running bases” almost every night after dinner. Carved out a diamond from the tallgrass prairie across the street and played all day every day of summer with Barch and Weremacher brothers. I think it was Bobby that hit me with a fastball in the face one year right after I just got my new glasses! (maybe they weren’t quite the right prescription…) We had two wooden bats, I had my dad’s old school style glove, and spent each summer playing my way around the diamond, pitching, catching, fielding, and sitting on our 2×8 bench.

We seldom had two full teams to play, even though the street was packed with kids, so we’d play “pitchers hand” and eliminate the infield, or play and score the game such that only the person hitting could score. I think it was one of the Gromke boys that pitched on the afternoon we got to play on the real diamond the school district built in prairie. I don’t remember what the pitch was, but remember the thunk of the bat and watching the Barches running back from center and left. The ball hit Menard st. on a fly and bounced against the Gromke house. I looked back at that on map my run the other day and it was a bit over 350 feet. I still smile at that…it would’ve been out of Wrigley on a good day!

Pitchers and Catchers develop a bond of sorts. The Catcher offers a suggestion, the Pitcher accepts it or doesn’t, the game progresses, the Pitcher tires and at that point, the Catcher trots to the mound and talks to the pitcher. I don’t know what they talk about in the major leagues, but in our sandlot it would typically be some kind of diversionary topic, gum, the new pile of dog poop that was this day’s third base “let ’em hit, i wanna see him slide into third…” or who owed who which candy bar at the Mendard and Dempster drug store. “Lettim hit” was a way the catcher was letting the pitcher off the hook for being tired and not having the strength to do what was needed to be done.

Thats what catchers do.

Buck up the pitcher, call the pitch, not get worried when a pitch call gets shrugged off by the pitcher, and when it all goes bad and the runner is rounding the pile of poop, stands in front and defends home, taking the hit from the runner coming home while the pitcher stands behind it all.

We all took our turns pitching, catching or chasing grasshoppers in right field, and we do it still today, in the depths of winter. You might know someone who needs an “attaboy” or “attagirl” today, someone who you can see is struggling to finish out the winter. Say something to let them off the hook, make them comfortable with the struggle to get through the next blizzard, the next ice storm, or the next long day at work.

Like baseball, life is a team sport I think. Some days we pitch and get the glory for the win, some days we catch and have to take the hit. But remember spring is coming! Baseball will be back! The green grass will smell sweet, and we’ll doze in the stands on a lazy afternoon.

Watch out for those fastballs that come right at your face, don’t slide into that pile of poop, and buck up a pitcher near you today. We can’t win this game alone.

snow day

Friday, February 4th, 2011

There’s no day like a snow day home from school!

Central Texas received its usual inch of snow last night, and in anticipation, all the school systems around us announced closures last night, and this morning the university followed suit.

So I’ve been outside in my sandals to take snow photos, done a load of laundry, changed the furnace filters, and am rummaging for something to bake, but I’m also remembering snow days growing up.

In Chicago, school doesn’t get closed all that often due to snow. I think everyone is more prepared, or just more stubborn about not wanting to give in to nature…or it could be that the Catholic schools didn’t close because a large family of children in a small house home all day, might drive a parent over the edge….

I remember sitting in the kitchen listening to WGN reading off the closings, thinking that the other kids were so lucky. I think it took me a few years to understand that they read the list in alphabetical order, and that’s how my sister knew when to listen and when not too, I’d always thought she had some uncanny ability to know when they’d announce St. Martha’s…

We’d all jump up and cheer when we heard that our school would be closed, and I think I remember seeing mom hold her head in her hands…we’d start watching cartoons, somehow expecting that the television station would switch to saturday programming. They wouldn’t of course, and we’d watch reruns of Gene Autry, Sky King and the always popular Sea Hunt. About the time the channels would be filled with soap operas and we’d start the usual poking, wrestling and generally tearing up the house and each other, mom would dress us all in our snow pants, coats, mittens, hats, scarves, boots (think Ralphie’s little brother) and push us out the door with instructions to shovel our walk, the neighbor’s walk, and the sidewalk as far as we could.

We’d push the big metal shovel (no plastic for us! no sir!) as far as we could, the blade hanging up on a crack just when we would get up a head of steam and the sudden stop would topple us over. I remember thinking that I’d never put in a flagstone walk when I had a house, and dream of new, uncracked concrete to shovel without the annoyance of toppling over.

The town plow would come by and place a mountain of snow right where dad had been parked and just as we straggled back to the house from shoveling, snow down our necks (how’d that happen?) mom would turn us around and point us towards the mountain to excavate a parking spot for dad.

By the time we were done with what seemed like hours worth of work it was around 11 and time for lunch. The unwrapping of all six of us was about an half hour’s proposition i think, with the dumping of boots, clothespinning of wet gloves and scarves on the improvised clotheslines. Mom would make tomato soup and grilled cheese, which we would all gobble down while watching the Bozo circus…and fall asleep in front of the tv.

By afternoon, when we’d wake, we’d all head to our rooms. I’d work on model cars, my older sister would play records, and I never knew what my younger sisters were doing in their big dorm in the new addition.

Soon it would be time to help with dinner, go back out and reshovel the path for dad’s car, and dad, and after dinner, we’d all sleep. Snow days might have been the most exercise I got during the winter.

As I look out the window, there’s not enough to shovel, so I’ll go back to laundry and get at that baking project…maybe there’ll be some typing in between, maybe a nap, where I’ll get to remember a bit more in my dreams.

Stay warm today, keep off the icy roads, help each other out if you come across someone stuck in the snow.