Baseball Practice

(Stories from my side of the field parts 12345, 6)

The stress and pressures of life continues on the airplane. Even though I’m headed for a vacation, I work on my laptop the full 3 hour flight, trying to get one more task completed. The stress in my upper shoulders is aching as I sit in my cramped economy middle seat trying to balance my laptop on a little tray made even smaller by the fact the person in front of me has leaned his chair back.

“This is your Captain speaking….we have been cleared for landing and should be on the ground in about 20 minutes.”

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For the first time since we took off, I lift my head out of my laptop and look across to my wife sitting in the window seat and out the window. Below us as we start to descend is the black of the desert and the faint lights of the city below. Out in the distance there is a bright circle of lights, then another appears and yet another a little closer to us.

As more and more come into view, and I realize what they are, I feel the stress in my shoulders all but disappear, a calm comes over me as I close my laptop mid sentence in an email and just stare out the window at the baseball fields lighting up the night sky.

The memories of playing the game for half my life uncontrollably start to flood back into my consciousness.

– My first time pitching in little league

– My first home run in high school

– My first time pitching in college

– Making a great play as shortstop to save a run

– A diving stop at 3rd base

– The hot summer nights spent sitting on the bench hoping to get in the game

– The hot summer nights in a game wishing I was sitting on a bench

The memories continue to pour over me as more and more fields come into view. For the second year in a row now we’re headed to Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona to watch the Mariners.

By the time we land I am in baseball mode. Work and the pressures of life have disappeared and all that is left is baseball.

The next day we go for a run soaking in the 70 degree weather and the sunshine. We finish our run at the Spring Training complex and watch the minor leaguers take batting practice. The first field we go to the players look small…really small. The new draftees, the new players fresh out of high school who haven’t been on the offseason weight lifting plan, take batting practice barely getting the ball out of the infield.

We walk over to the next practice field where the boys from the last field have become men. The difference between single A ball players and triple A ball players is huge. Not only their size and strength but also their approach in the batting cage, the polish of their swing, and the feedback they get from the coaches.

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As we walk around the complex watching these up and comers practice I am again taken back to all those days playing baseball in Spokane, Washington wishing and hoping that one day I would be here…be a part of this. I think about all the hours spent practicing. Whether in the back yard playing catch with my dad and brothers, during the winter months in the gym at Broadway Elementary School (Mom being a principal we would go in on the weekends and dad would hit me ground balls), or on the field practicing with the team. The hours that were spent on learning this game, now that I think about it, were extraordinary.

I look around at the hundreds of players practicing on five different fields and then think about that only 25 actually get to play in the Majors for every team. 25 out of hundreds of recruits, thousands of college players and millions of kids everywhere. Only 25 are chosen to play at the highest level for each team.

That night as we head to the game I can’t help but think that not only am I lucky enough to get to go to Spring Training, even if it’s on the wrong side of the field, but that I get to go with my biggest fans. My dad who woke me up every morning being a hero, my mom who was always my biggest fan, and my wife who is also here just because of ‘the love of the game’.

So here is to my biggest fans….let’s enjoy another baseball season.

4 Comments

  1. So enjoyed sharing spring training with you and Daneah! You know your dad and I both love the game – did from the time we were kids collecting baseball cards, trading, flipping and soaring them to win new cards. Nothing like a day or evening at the ball park to relax and enjoy one another!! See you next year in Peoria!!

    Love ya,
    Mom & Dad

  2. I was just thinking about you and what this years baseball story would be about! I love them all! Thank you for sharing! ⚾️⚾️⚾️❤️❤️❤️

  3. Always enjoy your baseball memories and insight! Loved taking in some games with your mom and dad!

  4. Mr. Jeff Utecht,

    My name is Savannah Price, and I am a student in EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. In this class, we are assigned to a teacher’s blog to comment on every two weeks. This week, I was assigned to you!

    Let me just start off by saying that I really like the layout of your blog site! You seem like you are a family man, as well as a great educational role model.

    I really enjoyed this blog post. My cousin plays MLB, so I can definitely relate to the excitement felt when arriving at the baseball field. I’m sure that was a wonderful experience for you to be a part of spring training. I really enjoyed reading this post, and I look forward to reading and commenting on another post in the future.

    Good luck to you and your career in the field of education!

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