I sit on the bus plays running through my head. It’s quiet…we’re all thinking about the game.
Runner on second line drive to left field….guys gonna try and score…I’m the cut off….catch and throw in one motion. Gotta be a strike to the plate.
Stay back….pick up the spin and stay back…keep your elbow up…and keep your weight back…remember that.
We arrive at Ferris High School and go through are usual warm up routine. I keep peaking to the spot where she always shows up. Of course the guys don’t see me looking and she’s not here yet…but I know she will be.
We take some batting practice.
Stay back…keep your weight back.
It doesn’t go well.
Crap! Quit pulling your head and keep your weight back.
I grab my mitt and sprint to the outfield to shag while my teammates get their turn at the plate.
As I sprint to my position I look over…she’s not here yet. Hope everything is OK…she’ll be here…she always is.
We finish taking infield and head to the dug out. We’re visiting so we’re up first. Another quick look at the line up. I’m batting 5th. I grab my bat and slowly turn it in my hands.
Have to stay back…this guy throws a lot of junk…pick it up early and keep your weight back.
As the game starts….I see her walking towards the field and a calm comes over me. As usual she’s driven straight from work. She has a green army blanket tucked under one arm and is carrying her folding lawn chair in the other. She has her CV visor on and is bundled up ready for the game.
She sets up in her usual spot. I’ve been playing ball on this field for at least 5 years..and always the same spot. Just to the right of the third base dugout and just past third base. She unfolds her chair sits down and wraps herself up in the blanket.
She sees me looking and gives me a quick smile. I feel a small grin come across my face.
I get up to bat.
Stay back….keep your elbow up.
As I step into the batter’s box I hear her.
“Here you go Jeffers!”
The same thing she has said to me every time I’ve stepped into the batters box for as long as I can remember.
It’s not a good at bat….I strike out watching a fastball paint the outside corner.
What was that? Why didn’t I swing…it was a perfect pitch….crap!
“That’s OK….get him next time”
The same thing she hollers every time I strike out.
I run back to the dugout…grab my mitt and sprint to Shortstop. I go through my regular routine…baseball is all about routines. I smooth out where I’m going to stand with my cleats, and try to forget about the strike out. Baseball’s tough that way. You can’t take the bat on the field with you and you can’t take your mitt to the plate. It’s easier said then done though.
First batter hits a ground ball right at me…field and throw.
That felt good…that’s what you get for striking me out!
“YES! Why to go Jeffers!”
She’s sitting almost horizontal to me just outside the third base line. She has the best seat to see every play I make.
The next two guys strike out and as I sprint back into the dugout, I look over and she waves a Gatorade bottle at me.
I drop my mitt in its usual place and then walk out of the dugout to fetch my Gatorade.
As I drink half the bottle of Gatorade right then and there.
“You need some seeds?”
“No, I have some.”
“You have to keep your back elbow up you’ve been dropping it lately.”
“I know Mom!” I snap back
“I know you know…I’m just telling you!”
“Dad says he throw a lot of off speed stuff.”
“Yeah….wasn’t expecting the fastball on that count.”
“Don’t think…you think to much.”
I take the Gatorade and walk back to the dugout.
Two innings later I get up to bat again.
“Here you go Jeffers!”
As usual she’s the only person I hear in the stands….I swear she’s the only fan here although I know there are at least a couple dozen others.
Second pitch is a curve ball…I wait on it…keep my weight back, my elbow up and hit a line drive in the gap between center and right field. As I slide into second for the double I hear her again.
“Way to go! That a boy!”
“I told you to keep your back elbow up!” I hear her yell will her hands cupped on either side of her mouth so the sound travels right throw the ear hole in my helmet. I look at her….smile and she grins and claps.
This post is dedicated to my mom who was always my biggest fan. She is an elementary school principal and through out my playing days no matter what the sport she was always there. Like most every teenager, I never stopped to think about what it must have been like for her. An elementary principal who had to leave school at 3pm sharp to drive the 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 1/2 hours…whatever it took to make the start of the game. She only ever called me “Jeffers” when I was playing sports and no matter how packed the stands were…her voice was always the one I would hear. She always made sure I had Gatorade, or water, or seeds or my jock strap for that matter. 🙂 She was my biggest fan, my agent, my calendar, my support. No matter how good or poorly I played she always remembered the good plays. I could strike out 3 times and make one good throw and she’d talk about the one good throw.
So here’s to you mom….as the 2009 baseball season gets underway. I’m thinking of all those games…all those summers where you drove here and there to watch me play.
Let the season begin!