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It's the Bottom of the Sixth, and the Bases are Loaded!

Updated on May 30, 2013

Hawaiian Youth Baseball Players

Grand-Nephews Micah and Noah at Walter Victor Baseball Park in Hilo, Hawai'i
Grand-Nephews Micah and Noah at Walter Victor Baseball Park in Hilo, Hawai'i | Source

The Bases Were Full

The year was 1963.

JFK and his lovely wife, Jackie, were occupants of not only the White House but also the hearts of almost every American. On both domestic and international fronts, the country had never before experienced such contentment and prosperity. Truly, this was the idyllic season of Camelot.

And even at the newsstands, should one get distracted and tempted to fret over headlines of Soviet missiles, a stockinged Khruschev hammering on the table with his size 9 shoes, or the growing body count in Vietnam, the goofy, big-eared, simpleton-grinning, and freckle-faced Mad magazine coverboy icon, Alfred E. Neuman, soon had you grinning like Opie, too.

But for yours truly, a ten going on eleven-year-old boy, it was the worst of times.

I had done the unthinkable, you see.

I had walked the bases full.

Kawaihau Little League Baseball Park

A markerKawaihau Little League Baseball Park -
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There Were No Outs

I was in the last year of my Kawaihau Little League career. I was an above average pitcher for my team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

But for some reason, I could not focus on this one particular day. I usually had almost machine-like efficiency as a control pitcher, but on this day, I could not get my bearings.

My team was ahead by one run. All I had to do was engineer the last few outs, and we would emerge victorious.

Easier said than done.

There were no outs.

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I Braced Myself

I tried not looking at the dugout, but I nervously glanced in that direction. My dad was standing in the dugout door. Dressed in sneakers, white socks, black Bermuda shorts, a maroon and white three-quarter sleeved T-shirt, and maroon baseball cap, he truly looked the part of an assistant coach. He aspired to one day be a head coach, but for the duration of my Little League days, he was content to gain valuable experience and tips from the seasoned Japanese coach, Masa Arinaga.

Truth be told, I wasn't missing by much...which only served to reinforce in my little boy mind that the Portugese umpire was cheating me out of a few strikes. I mean, this was perplexing. I seldom ever walked batters unless it was an overt strategic move.

Now, as the ump yelled, "Ball four! Take your base!" all I could do was stare openly at my father in despair.

I was afraid that he was going to chew me out. At the same time, I needed him to help me get out of this jam. What that help might be, I had no idea. All I knew for sure was that I was stinkin' up the field and probably embarrassing my dad big time! I wanted to dig a deep hole and have the earth swallow me up.

"Ump!" My father called out. Forming his hands in the shape of a T, he added, "Time out!" The umpire granted it.

Dad came sauntering over to the mound. Just under 6 feet tall and at 220 lbs., Dad was a formidable sight. Was he so upset with me that he'd lose his cool and hit me? My face flushed with anxiety.

I thought for sure Dad would chew me out or, worse yet, go on and on about my mechanics not being right. On my own, I had already tried every possible inch of that rubber, trying in vain to change the angle of my pitches. Nothing had worked.

Here he was, his shadow covering me as his body came between me and the grueling mid-afternoon sun.

I braced myself...

With Bases Loaded, a Young Pitcher Strikes Out the Side in 13 Pitches!

I Found My Eye of the Tiger

"Hey," he said. A pause. And then, a simple question: "Did you see Nora and Alana in the bleachers?" Nora and Alana were classmates of mine. They also happened to be two of the cutest girls in school. What in the world? Why was Dad talking to me about girls?

Instead of yelling at me and calling me a "good for nothing" or "hopeless," Dad smiled. I remember thinking, "What's wrong with you? You're supposed to be ticked off at me! I'm making you look bad! You're a cop, and I'm a cop's kid! I'm not supposed to screw up!"

All the frustration of my ten going on eleven years, like lava spewing over the lip of a volcano, was surfacing in my sweat and grime.

All Dad did was suggest that those girls were cheering hard for me and that they must really like me.

Me? Pimply faced, baby fat, and socially awkward me? No way, Jose!

Still, the possibilities found the opportunity in those few precious seconds to conceive and hatch in my youthful pubescent brain, and I began to wonder if the girls had indeed been cheering hard for me...just for me.

My dad smiled at me again, tugged on the visor of my cap, and patted me on the butt--the way men do in the midst of athletic battle and that no one ever deems as inappropriate--and walked back to the dugout.

Time was called back in by the ump.

I rubbed the new baseball with my sweaty palms and felt my fingers and thumb find a new and powerful grip on the ball. No longer caring about my foot placement, I dug deep within and found my eye of the tiger.

Glaring at the catcher's mitt, I summoned up every bit of focus and mindfulness and all of the raw soul grit I could find.

And I pitched.

The bases were loaded because I had walked three batters in a row.

In less than a dozen pitches, I struck out the next three batters.

My team rushed me, cheering victoriously! In the afterglow, the only face I saw was that of my father. And he was smiling, the same way he had smiled at me at the meeting on the mound.

My Coach Dad, 50 Years Later

Dad and the Youngest Great-Grandson, Kahanohaweo, a Future All-Star Baseball Player
Dad and the Youngest Great-Grandson, Kahanohaweo, a Future All-Star Baseball Player | Source

He Saw Me in My Potential

I never told anyone about that pivotal time out exchange.

Not until today.

We can debate until we're blue in the face about what had made the difference. For me, it's pretty darn clear.

My father put on God's image that long ago afternoon.

He didn't see me in my dilemma.

He saw me in my potential.

And for the rest of my life, I will never forget that wonderful, heartwarming lesson. As a father beginning his seventh decade of life, there have been times when my own children have had that same deer caught in the headlights look that I wore that fateful spring afternoon in '63.

And, like my father, I have known the engaging sweetness of seeing my children in their potential rather than in their dilemma.

We were created in God's image. But, sadly, we have traveled so far from the simple truth.

It's time to get back to it.

It's time to strike the side out.

Making a Difference, One Hub at a Time

Here's to YOUR Potential!
Here's to YOUR Potential!

For more hubs about living in one's potential rather than in one's dilemma, click on the following link:

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  • Lisawilliamsj profile image

    Lisa Williams 4 years ago

    Joe, This was an amazing and well written article! The lesson here is so important. I try hard as a parent to point out my children's strengths, which is especially important to my oldest daughter. She has some special needs, but she is a wonderful little girl who knows her worth! Thank you for posting this touching glimpse into your life. I voted up!

  • kidscrafts profile image

    kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

    Thank you Joe! You are too kind!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @kidscrafts

    Good morning, Joelle!

    Wow, what wonderful and heartwarming comments you've bestowed upon me today! A terrific way to start my day! Thank you so much.

    You know, I have told my dad about what his coaching style has meant to me...and specifically in reference to that day I struck out the side. But what you've reminded me to do with your gentle inquiry is to email this particular hub to him right after I finish writing this response to you. So you made a beautiful difference already today with your kind reminder. That's the special empathy and author's special trait that you bring to this HP community. Aloha and mahalo, my friend!

    Joe

  • kidscrafts profile image

    kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

    Very nice story Joe! A very nice true story of a good and caring Dad! Lucky you! It's good to have a dad involved in your activity as coach but also good to have a dad that can accept that you have an off day....but found a way to finish in a excellent day!

    Thank you for sharing!

    I hope that you told your Dad how his way to connect with you made all the difference in that day.

    Thanks for sharing the nice picture of your Dad with his great-grandson:-)

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Angela Kane

    Thank you so much, Angela, for inspiring me with your comments. I think it is remarkable how we writers can connect here in this literary community. The moments of "Wow! That's exactly how I'm feeling!" or "I can relate to that!" are magical! I'm honored to be able to help you, Angela, even if it's from afar. Aloha, my friend!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @tillsontitan

    I had so much fun with both parents as well as siblings and extended family last month that the homesickness continues to linger. One way of coping with that bittersweet nostalgia is forthcoming in a hub I'm presently working on. There was a lot of pain in my childhood and teenage years, Mary, and maybe that explains why I made a special effort to remember the happy times. My father and mother were divorced years ago, but as I saw the way Dad looked at Mom and observed how kindly they treated each other, it moved me to write about things from good old days. I wanted to especially share this "behind the scenes" tidbits with you, knowing that you have a lot of empathy for others. Thank you, my friend! See you at the next hub!

  • Angela Kane profile image

    Angela Kane 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

    Awesome hub, I have had that look and feeling many times in my life especially now when I have to figure out a problem and just want to give up because I don't know what else I can to do. I some how always figure it out and happy I never gave up.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

    The epitome of what a Dad should be, and what a writer should be. What a great life lesson told so well. We all have wonderful memories but we don't have the ability to recount them so well. Your pictures are a great punctuation as well.

    You shine your light through your words and make it so worthwhile to all of us. Keep the good stories coming my friend.

    Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and shared.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Radcliff

    Hi, Liz! I wanted to share another story with you that reinforces what you stated about the mind being a powerful thing. So, it's a few years after the Little League incident. I wake up and find my dad at the breakfast table. Without blinking an eye, he says, " I had a dream that you're going to hit a home run today!" Talk about pressure, Liz! I'd never hit a single home run in Little League, and now he was predicting that I was going to do so in a Pony League game? I was squirming the early part of the game...but in my second at bat, I hit a ball deep to right center, securing Dad's prophetic dream.

    To this day, I believe in visualization. I use it in my eBay work, my writing, my connecting with others...

    About my grand-nephews...I had not met them before my trip to the Big Island last month, and so it was really cool that I had that opportunity to see them and other relatives for the first time.

    I, too, am very pleased that we met here on HP, Liz. It's a great community for learning and sharing! Thanks for stopping by, Liz! Aloha!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @rajan jolly

    In American baseball, Rajan, coaches and sportswriters talk about a concept called "little ball." For example, "He was adept at coaching 'little ball.' "

    The phrase had to do with the chess-like strategy, or the subtle finesse of a game, rather than sheer talent or muscle. My father was a genius at coaching little ball. One time, for example, he noticed that a catcher habitually lollygagged in getting the ball back to the pitcher. Every chance we got, as soon as the catcher wound up to toss the ball back to the mound in a high arc (as opposed to a fast throw), we would steal a base, perfectly legal because time had not been called and thus, the game was still "live." Those stolen bases, very difficult to achieve at a young age and with the strict rules governing Little League baseball, ended up with key runs for us that helped us win games we shouldn't have won.

    Thanks for reading this baseball hub and for your kind comments, my friend. Aloha, and have a wonderful Monday!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @LKMore01

    My dad would tell me, "I can't show any favoritism when I'm coaching. So I'm going to be harder on you." And he was...and, yes, I resented it. I wasn't a natural athlete, Lisa, like some of my peers were, but what Dad taught me was the ability and desire to hustle, to work very hard, to run both on and off the field during inning changes, and to display absolute enthusiasm. I worked so hard, just like I do with my writing, and--sonofagun!--I became a better athlete. Dad kept his word--he was hard on me during practices, alright, but in game situations, he was just the opposite...always gentle, always encouraging, always a pleasant and positive distraction. In an odd sort of way, he knew that if he could distract me from being my worst enemy at any given moment, I would thus be freed up to enter that "zone." I'm honored that you enjoyed my flashback moment. Alana and Nora never knew the pivotal difference they made as a result of my father's visit to the pitching mound, but I can tell you that you're an inspiration to the young boy that is always there inside of me, the one that I settle down at times when he becomes too anxious...and the voice I hear emanating from my mouth is that of my father.

    Thank you so much for sharing in this experience, Lisa. With warm aloha and a gentle good night,

    Joe

  • LKMore01 profile image

    LKMore01 4 years ago

    Really enjoyed this story, Joe. You bring us to that very moment. When you describe an event we are there with you.We are on the field. We feel your nervousness and anticipation.

  • Radcliff profile image

    Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

    First of all, look at your grand-nephews! They're so adorable.

    It's amazing how a memory like this can get you through the hard times. The mind is a powerful thing! A perspective can be life-changing.

    You're very wise, Joe. I'm so glad we "met"!

    Aloha,

    Liz

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    What an inspiring story, Joe! I think all of us parents have a lesson to learn from this and that is, to inspire and not denigrate one's children or on the broader canvas of life, to appreciate and not discourage people.

    Surely, your dad knew a lot about the power of encouragement.

    Voted up and useful.

    Aloha and have a gud day!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @bdegiulio

    First of all, before I forget, I want to congratulate you, Bill, on doing your very best in attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The fact that you're the father of grown kids and that you're able to run and FINISH marathons is a huge inspiration to me and others. So, kudos to you, and thanks for all the motivation this provides me with.

    About the time my dad was beginning to coach baseball, even as an assistant, he resigned from his decade or so of working for Lihue Plantation (the sugar cane company on the island) to become a police officer. I began to see increased pride and self-respect in him, and during his early years on the force, my family and I really thrived.

    Sadly, the temptations that accompany a police officer's work range from subtle to "in your face," and over time, that which had been good soured into traumatic events.

    In my teenage years, my heart festered with a lot of anger, bitterness, and depression.

    Nevertheless, the important universal lessons I learned to get to where I'm at today suggest that I bear a responsibility as a writer to provide living testimony that hardships need not ever be excuses for hurting oneself or others. Instead, life's thunderclouds actually provide us with opportunities to hone our finer qualities--successful coping with adversity; courage; perseverance; empathy; inspiration; leadership...on and on and on.

    So, it's not that I have a selective memory. I write with purpose--by focusing on the positive, seasoning it with just enough conflict to provide impetus for the story, my goal is to share my take on the human experience with my peers here on HubPages in a way that emphatically states: WE ARE MORE ALIKE THAN WE ARE DIFFERENT.

    That, my friend, is my contribution to keeping the peace. Thank you so very, very much for your beautiful hubs and the tremendous contributions you yourself make towards that peace. Aloha and have a good night's rest, Bill!

    Joe

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @wetnosedogs

    Life wasn't always easy, being a cop's son or having parents that got married way too young and had a lot of growing up themselves to do. But I'm definitely not complaining...my job as a writer is to weigh it all together and, while writing my truth into the scenario, plucking out universal lessons for all of us to share and learn from. This is my contribution to our wonderful HubPages community, and I want to continue doing so for as long as I'm able to. Thank you so much for ever being so loyal, caring, and supportive, WND! Aloha!

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi Joe. Your dad was and is a wise man. And I'm sure he passed along to you much wisdom. What a great story. I was rooting for you the whole time. Amazing how some things stick with us for a lifetime. I'm sure you've paid it forward and have passed your wisdom onto your kids.

    Great job Joe. I'm voting this up and sharing it because I want everyone to read this.

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

    Wow, you had me going. I was wondering how hard your dad was going to smack you or how loud he would get yelling! That is wonderful how he treated the moment and you got right in there and did your thing. Wonder if those girls are reading this and remembering that day? Wouldn't that be something?

    Spectacular. I enjoyed this.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @billybuc

    You and me BOTH, Bill! Wasn't Jamie Moyer a wiz with that changeup? I was at a yard sale today sponsored by the Boy Scouts and happened to see some sports prints of the wily Mariner, and I just gotta give the guy props for lasting as long as he did, going up against Cy Young winners and all the other greats. And I hear he's thinking about a comeback! You know, there's a guy who's seeing potential, not dilemma! Thanks for taking a time out from your day off (the last thing I wanted to do, Bill, knowing how busy you are!) to come on over and join me for some good time memories! Aloha, my friend, and I'll see you via HP again bright and early tomorrow morning!

    Joe

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Joe, I think your dad is a clone of mine. What a great story. I took the day off and wasn't planning on reading any hubs, but I saw the title of this one pop up and, well, you know....there was no way I was missing this one.

    Happily the better man one that confrontation long ago....and he is still winning today.

    Your words shine in my eyes and your truth is universal.

    Man oh man I love baseball.

    Aloha,

    bill