Baseball season got underway earlier this month, and the Atlanta Braves are on fire. I have high hopes for the good guys.
My mom loved the Braves and spent every waking hour watching them on TV. She hated West Coast games because they started after her self-imposed 8:30 bedtime, but otherwise if they were on TV, she was watching.
Anyone who chose to visit her during game time might as well pull up a seat, munch some popcorn and watch the TV that was louder than rap music blaring from a teenager’s jumbo car stereo speakers.
I never called or visited while the Braves were on unless I had my game face on. Whenever I called after game time to check on her, I’d ask how the Braves did. “Aw, I don’t want to talk about it,” meant they’d lost, so I quickly changed the subject.
But her love of baseball went back much further, to when I was a kid playing little league. She never missed one of my games. Her cheers were the loudest when we won and when we lost, her face was the longest.
Once when we played in Hull in a Saturday afternoon game, an opposing pitcher hit me with a late-hooking curveball. While grimacing from the shooting pain, I noticed her out of the corner of my eye. She was about to stripe the legs of every opposing player with a keen hickory. She took baseball and the health of her son seriously.
I struggled with math in school but when I reflect back, I realize I understood a great deal more about geometry, trigonometry, angle, trajectory, telemetry and velocity than my school test scores indicated.
On the occasions when the coach put me in the infield at shortstop, I demonstrated an amazing grasp of those concepts in real time. In less than a millisecond after the crack of a white ash bat, my eye and brain calculated all the factors to make and instantaneous decision on where to place my glove to catch a ball traveling at what seemed like the speed light.
I especially loved early spring when the trees were greening, and the sun felt warm on the back of my freshly starched uniform.
The things etched into my mind are the chalk lines and red-clay infields that were as dry as snuff. The fat white bases at the corners looked like unbaked biscuits. I can still remember the smell of my new cowhide glove with lanolin oil rubbed into the palm to keep it soft as a cotton diaper.
By the end of the season, my arms and neck would be tan as teakwood.
Someone once said that baseball is 20 minutes of action packed into three hours. I thought that was funny, but there’s a lot of truth to it.
When I played I remember spending a lot of time standing around scratching and spitting. It’s a good thing cell phones with video cameras hadn’t been invented then because there would probably be some unfortunate footage of me floating around on YouTube.
The Braves are on TV tonight, so in honor of my mom, I plan to pop some popcorn, eat a hotdog and watch some baseball.