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Baseball: My Love Affair With America's Great Tradition

Updated on August 28, 2012
Work first and then PLAY BALL!
Work first and then PLAY BALL! | Source
Standing outside Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners!
Standing outside Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners! | Source
High School baseball player...yours truly!
High School baseball player...yours truly! | Source

Standing on the mound sixty feet from home plate, I slowly spun the baseball in my hand as I waited for the catcher to lay down the sign. There were close to a thousand people in the stands that day at the old Sicks Stadium in Seattle because the hated Oregon Ducks were in town and that always drew a crowd in Seattle.

It was a warm day for Seattle in May, close to eighty degrees, and I could feel the sweat flowing down my back as I glanced at the runner on third who was doing his best to distract me, but there would be no distractions at that moment in time. The crowd rose to their feet as one, the noise increased and then the strangest thing happened: I couldn’t hear a thing. Not one sound entered my consciousness as my focus on the batter became so intense that all sound disappeared.

The catcher called for a curveball, low and away, a known weak spot for the number four hitter for the Ducks, and as I went into my windup I saw nothing but the catcher’s mitt giving me the target. The curveball did indeed find the outside corner, knee high, and the batter went back to the dugout shaking his head, frustrated, knowing that at that time, in that place, he had come up short in our personal duel.

It ended for me two weeks later; my shoulder finally gave out after thousands of pitches spanning ten years. The love affair, however, still remains.

So how did it begin?

THE BIRTH OF A LOVE AFFAIR

It seems like I have always had a baseball in my hand. In truth my dad bought me my first glove when I was five and every night that first summer after he got off work he and I would go outside and play catch. I suppose the love affair began then. Dad would never push me to play; in fact, I was always standing by the window waiting for him to get home so we could start our new father-son ritual.

My dad was an excellent athlete in his own right, a solid ballplayer in high school before The Great Depression sidetracked any dreams he might have had; after that the Army and World War II, so I am sure that when he and I started playing catch it was a chance for him to renew his own love of the game.

The bonding was all-important to little five-year old Billy, but an appreciation for the game quickly grew. I loved the smell of the glove, the feel of the baseball in my hands, and the satisfaction I gained when I would scoop up a grounder or settle under a fly ball as flawlessly as a five-year old is capable of doing. My father was always patient, never scolded, always nurturing the love he had and transferring it to his only son. It was a match made in heaven, baseball and me, and it only grew stronger as the years marched on.

THE BIRTH OF SELF-ESTEEM

I was a scrawny kid at a young age, sick quite often and seemingly incapable of growing, so consequently I had very little confidence. The exception was baseball. Night after night I would play catch with my dad; night after night he would hit me balls until darkness fell, only to repeat the ritual the next night. It turned out I actually had athletic ability so that by age ten I had developed a fair amount of talent. The only thing holding me back was the lack of self-esteem and the conviction I had that I would never be good enough to compete with the bigger kids.

Dad understood that of course in a way parents always seem to sense what their child is thinking. One day he sat down on the lawn after our session and told me that as long as I had a glove in my hand I would be the equal of any other kid in the neighborhood, and that it was time for me to test myself in league play.

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/My-Fathers-Words-A-Lesson-About-Baseball-and-Life

He was right of course; he usually was now that I look back. I turned out for the local team and ended up the season as the MVP and for years that trophy sat next to my bed, watching me grow from the scared ten year old to confident high school player and then college player.

THE LOVE DEEPENS

Going to my first professional game with my dad is the stuff that life-long dreams are made of; our town, Tacoma, Washington, had a AAA farm team of the San Francisco Giants called the Tacoma Giants. Dad and I went to our first game the summer of 1960. I can still recall walking down the concourse and seeing that field before me, a veritable banquet for the senses. The bright-blue sky overhead, the lush green of the infield and outfield, the well-manicured base paths, all combined to leave me in a state of awe.

From that day on I watched every game possible on television and visited the ballpark every chance I got. I would watch the players set up under a fly ball, their feet in perfect position for the throw. I made mental notes of the infielders, the smoothness of their motions, reminding me of ballet dancers as they turned the double-play. Of course, the main objects of my attention were the pitchers, always in control of the game, locked in a never-ending battle of skill and mental toughness with the batters. I watched their steely-eyed concentration, the way they pushed off of the rubber and the way they handled victory and defeat. I was, pure and simple, in love with the game.

ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END….OR DO THEY?

The lessons my father taught me served me well for quite a few years. I had a decent career in high school but not one that would even hint that I could go on to play college ball. I was a walk-on in college, never doubting for a moment that I could compete at that level. The words of my dad so long ago continued to echo in my mind….as long as I had a glove in my hand I was the equal of any other player.

All of those hours of playing catch with my dad, all of those evenings of throwing a ball against a cement wall, all culminated my sophomore year in college when I came into a game in relief of the starting pitcher. I can clearly recall standing on the mound, looking around at the field and players and thinking how much I loved this game. Five pitches later, the last of which was a nasty knuckleball that dad had taught me years before, and I had my first college strikeout.

Two years later it ended. Today they would call it a rotator cuff injury and surgery would be suggested. In those days, however, they just said you threw out your shoulder and you were done.

Or was I?

TRUE LOVE NEVER DIES

Your first love never really fades away despite the setbacks and the heartache. So it was for me! I was disillusioned as would be expected, and disappointed that I couldn’t perform any longer for my dad, but the positives far outweighed the negatives and I moved on with my life.

My father died six months later. As it turned out we really had seen our last baseball game together, but the memories of him and I playing on the front lawn will forever be with me. It is virtually impossible for me to watch a game today without thinking of my dad driving in the driveway, getting out of his car and smiling at me as I threw his glove to him for our nightly bonding.

http://billybuc.hubpages.com/hub/Remembering-My-Fathers-Death-January-9-1969

On the morning of his funeral I asked the undertaker if I could add something to my dad’s casket. He opened it up for me and stood back as I said my final goodbye to my mentor and best friend and then softly placed my baseball glove in with him. If there is a heaven he’s up there smiling, glove on his hand, just waiting for our next game of catch.

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    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 5 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      That was very touching, great tribute to your dad.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Uninvited and you are always invited to my writing parties. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

    • albertsj profile image

      jacy albertson 5 years ago from Lake Mary, Fl

      I didn't see this so much about Baseball, as I did for the love of your father. Beautiful, as usual. And Thanks for sharing this side of you. Now get to work on your next hub... ; )

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jacy and you are right, it was more about my father. As usual, what would I do without your support? Just dry up and sit at my computer with a dazed look on my face, that's what!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Now, here's a sport I can genuinely enjoy. I do love Baseball. Like it live the best, of course, but don't mind watching it on the tube too. With 4 sons, all athletes, of every sport known to man, I don't mind admitting I grew very weary around game #865..."Rah...Rah.....Raaaaaaaaaaats! Can I go home now?"

      I so understand your long term love affair with baseball. It seems it was more than the game that you learned to love. Your memories of your Dad and bonding via BB mitts....what happy and comforting flashbacks you must have. This is a special and touching story, billy....a real tear-jerker for a soft-touch like myself. I HATE crying, billy!! Damn it! "THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!!" (Tom Hanks)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paula, one of the highlights of any day is seeing a comment by you. You? A soft-touch? You need to go walk by that damn creek of yours and get control of those emotions. :) Thank you so much...love your support!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Oh wise man....do not shatter my image of you & your all-knowing powers....Never be blinded by the glare of my armor. As time goes on, you'll need your sight to see who's inside.........

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      lol...always!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I am touched by your story of a father-son relationship. I wish every boy had a dad like yours, it would give them a strong foundation in life. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      teaches, I truly do appreciate your comments and your following. Thank you so much!

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Wonderful hub, loved it. I too am a huge fan of baseball and still possess many of my memories from my playing days. In addition to those days I am building new ones with my son who just started his freshman season of high school ball.

      My playing days might be over but I am enjoying the coaching days just as much.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      adjkp25, I coached as well, then played adult softball for twenty years...the sport is in my bloodstream and my heart and always will be. Thank you so much for commenting and I wish you many happy days with the sport you love.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      I too play softball with a bunch of friends I graduated high school with. It is a good way to stay connected with them while getting some exercise as well.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      adjkp25, it is indeed. I simply got too old finally to play any longer but I still love the game. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

    • profile image

      Sandy 5 years ago

      That was such a touching story Bill. It is exactly how I remember it. The times I was lucky enough to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa, that is what I remember you and Grandpa doing in the evenings, and if Doug was there he was playing as well.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sandy! They are good memories for me. It is important to keep the good memories close by for when we need them.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting and well presented hub.

      Take care

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Eddy; I appreciate your words and I'm happy that you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane.

    • baseballbrains profile image

      baseballbrains 5 years ago

      Great great hub. As somebody who is passionate as well about our great game, I could feel your love for baseball coming off the page. Very well done, thanks for sharing. By the way, I'm a Mariners fan myself, and have stood many times outside the field where you were photographed. Safeco is a fantastic park for watching a game.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      baseballbrains, I thank you and I agree, Safeco is a great ball park. Maybe baseball is just something we are born to like; few people acquire a taste for it as they get older. Glad you liked the hub and thank you for the visit.

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      this is beautiful, Billy. I've always loved baseball. The smell of the grass. the crack of the bat. The freshly mowed grass. The chess matches. It'sd a beautiful, poetic game. I was decent at it, I was a relief pitcher with a mean knuckle ball, but I could only hit if the game was on the line. i was clutch, but didn't have much power. In fact, the one home run i hit, was stolen from me when the centerfield reached over the fence and caught the ball. It was also the final out in a little league world series game that we ended up losing. I grew up in the northwest, but have always HATED the Mariners (they're actually my least favorite team in all of sports. I think their front office is a joke. All the money they spend, they should be winning the title every year... and now they trade their best young pitcher to the Yankees of all teams? The hatred only increases). I've been an A's fan since the Bash (read: steroid) brothers of the late 80's.

      I loved this hub, Billy. very good! Up and shared

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Beautiful!! I love how you described your love affair. PDX did a great job with his comments, too--crack of the bat, freshly mowed grass. I grew up with my dad and three brothers listening to the St. Louis Cardinals on the radio and I've followed them ever since. There is something poetic and beautiful and skillful about baseball. Definitely the all-American game. Great hub. Love it, love it!

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      This is the "field of dreams" in hubpages.....I loved that movie and I love this hub.

      Very touching...I can relate very much to this...as my Dad and I shared many evenings playing "catch". I have an 11-year old son, who waits on me when I come home to throw the ball....

      I think it is really is a special time for father and son to bond.

      You got me teary eyed on this one...

      Chris

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I wish I could tell you how exciting this season is for me.

      I've been watching baseball since I was twelve...forever following the stats and scores of the dismal Texas Rangers...but now we've been to the world series two years in a row!!!

      Oh my! We've got a better team going this year!! Three in a row!!!!!!!!!!!! (I hope)

      Oh gosh it was sad, growing up I was CERTAIN that I'd be a major league baseball player. I thought my dedication to practice would make it all come true - and I spent every free hour reading or practising some sort of something for baseball.

      OH well, I still love to watch it though.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      PDX....lmao...I love the M's but hate their management, and I actually loved the old A's when Reggie and Vida Blue were doing their thing...thank you for the great comment...love reading about your knuckle ball.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vicki, St. Louis was my favorite team when I was growing up before there was a team in Seattle. I will always love the game. Thank you my dear for dropping by and being so supportive.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Chris, that is so cool that your son waits for you to come home and play ball with him. What great memories you are forming with him. Thank you for sharing that!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wesman, there is no explaining it to someone who doesn't get it...you get it my friend. And although I hate the Rangers I readily admit that they are going to kick some serious Seattle butt this season. Thank you so much for your comments.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I know you were a pitcher, but you hit it out of the park with this hub. Well written with the most important element - your heart.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kathleen, thank you; I simply don't know any other way to write. Your comments are deeply appreciated.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Billy, I loved this hub. It was very moving and interesting. I must be one of only a few thousand baseball fans this side of the pond - shame I've got nobody with whom to talk about it! I am a Tampa Bay Rays fan.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jools, I have always loved that expression....this side of the pond...a baseball fan over there? who would have guessed it? Although a Seattle Mariner fan I actually do like Tampa Bay for being a small-market team with loyal fans. Thank you for dropping by...if you feel like teaching me the finer points of cricket I will listen intently.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Ah, cricket - don't get me started. I am, not surprisingly, also a keen cricket fan. I completely get the pleasure of watching a ball game where you can sit and enjoy the game, the sunshine, a beer (or soft drink or cuppa)and just enjoy being with other people who love it as well. I don't get games where the fans are screaming at the players and also screaming at one another.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jools, I will seriously have to read the rules of cricket one of these days and try to grasp the concept. One concept I do grasp is sitting in the sun just enjoying a game...one of life's little pleasures.

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

      This is a great hub Billybuc. There are two movies (both with Kevin Costner) which really gives you a sense of the game and why it is so loved my millions, "For the Love of the Game" and "Field of Dreams." Thank you for sharing one of life's little pleasures. Lisa voted up!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lisa, thank you for stopping by once again. I love both of those movies, as I do "The Natural." There is nothing like a great baseball movie.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      A very heartwarming story and memories are indeed priceless treasures to keep even when a loved one is gone. I can imagine you and your dad with baseballs in your hands and I too smile. Love and blessings. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Awww, thank you Ripple! I appreciate that and I, too, can imagine my dad and I with baseballs. Thank you so much!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      You had a great Dad Bill. Your story reminds me of my brother who grew up with a passion for baseball encouraged by our Dad Thank you for sharing this!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Bill, delighted to return for another look at this hub. I am enjoying the baseball season so far, already a perfect game and some fine hitting.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audrey, they are great memories and I'm blessed to have them. Thank you my friend!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jools, it has been an interesting season so far. Heck, the M's had a no-hitter although they needed four pitchers to do it. :) Thanks for stopping by again.

    • profile image

      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      Baseball is an interesting sport. There are so many great teams. There is also so much rich baseball history too. I voted up. That is so useful and awesome. I am glad that you created it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Integrity, I'm glad you liked it. I have always loved baseball history and it is so much a part of my past.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      This was such a beautiful article and could totally see and understand where you indeed get your passion for baseball from throwing the old ball around with your dad as a little boy. I have to tell you I cried at the end ( I knew from reading your article how your dad passed on and the story), but still reading about you including your baseball mitt in his coffin before they closed it up for good had me bawling. Thank you for sharing and have of course voted up and shared too!!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well shoot, Janine, I didn't want you bawling on a Friday! :) Thank you for being so caring and compassionate. Cherish the time you have with your children; you mean so much to them, and the lessons you teach them will last a lifetime.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      Your father is a great person, Bill; taught you one of life's great lessons through America's Pastime. Thank you for sharing this :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Keith, I was a lucky kid for sure. Thank you buddy and enjoy a wonderful weekend!

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