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I played in the Little League for the first time in 1955. I went to the tryouts by myself, unlike today where the parents take kids everywhere. I remember a ball bouncing up and hitting me in the chin at the tryouts. At home, nobody played catch with me because nobody gave a flip about baseball. So I basically learned to catch by throwing the ball up in the air over and over and tyring to catch them.
When I went to the sporting goods store to look for a glove, I found a glove I liked, but this Nokona glove costed $6.50, and I only had $6. The store owner was very kind though, and he took the $6 and let me have the glove. I doubt Wal-Mart would allow that to happen today.
To go to practices and games, I would ride my bike. I never remember my parents taking me to a practice in the four years that I played Little League (and then later in the Pony League).
In my first game, the same day I finished the fifth grade, I remember a batter hit a sinking liner to right field and I caught it just above my shoetops. I think I was more surprised than anyone to have caught the ball.
One time, the coach had the brilliant idea of putting me in a game as starting pitcher. I lasted four batters before I was out of the game, giving up two hits and two walks. Needless to say, I never pitched again. I was an average player, at best, but since then, I spent very little time on the bench. However, I was happy.
My only highlight as a hitter was when I hit the ball over the center field fence for what I thought was a home run. It was just my luck the other team had a defensive whiz in center field and he just reached over the short fence and caught the ball turning my home run into a long out. In the four years I played, I never hit a ball that far again.
Another lasting impression was the time we were playing a game and one of the players hollered "That plane's going to crash" and we could see the plane plummeting to the ground. It was an Air Force plane from the local air base and it crashed a block off of Main Street into the National Cemetery. That is an event I will always associate with playing baseball since it happened during our game.
My parents were not that enthralled with baseball or any other sport, but they would make their annual pilgrimage to the ballpark to see me play once a year. They just had no interest in baseball, even if their son was playing in a game.
I can still remember the Bowman baseball cards with the photos of the players inside television sets being sold at the concession stand. Those cards would be worth a lot of money, but I think mothers across the USA have turned priceless baseball cards into dying embers not realizing their worth.
With my grandson playing baseball today, I took him to every practice and every game last year, but now with us 673 miles away in Tennessee, I have not seen any of his practices or games.
Kids today are fortunate to have a parent or both parents at their practices and games. Of course, there are the parents that take baseball too seriously. One teammate had a parent tell them that if they struck out they were going to catch it when they got home. So maybe I didn't have it that bad with so little support from my parents because they didn't care if I hit a home run every at bat or struck out every at bat or if I made an error every time the ball was hit to me.
Life leaves us with many nostalgic memories of the past and one of mine is those four summers when I was playing baseball with no tee ball leagues or pitching machine leagues but played live baseball just like the major leaguers.