Forty Years, Forty Posts #6

My only home run in my storied athletic career bounced off the hands of Chad and onto the stage. It was 8th grade gym class, and we were playing kickball.

I was a small kid, usually the shortest in the class. It didn’t help that for some reason to do with cutoff dates for kids starting school in various states, I was also usually the youngest kid in the class. At the end of 8th grade, for example, I was 13; most kids were 14.

I had played kickball for years, and knew the only way for me to take a base was to boot the ball hard between a couple of people. Anything in the air would be caught. Knowing my failings and my strategy, the opponents would “move up!” at the command of the pitcher or bowler or whatever the person is called in kickball who spins the ball at you. The shame of being the last one picked–which I also know well–is minor compared to the Easy Out Shift, especially when it proves to be a sound defensive maneuver. Most of my hard-kicked balls were easily fielded and lobbed to first base for an out. I actually had an easier time with baseball, where a guy could just bounce the ball and rely on the defensive incompetence of the his opponents, but kickball doesn’t have a lot of seeing eye singles or errors, and there’s no way to kick a chopper or lay down a bunt with a red rubber ball. Believe me, I tried.

This spectacular day, I decided to give it my all, and arced the ball nearly across the gym. Chad went for it, grabbed at it, and actually helped it onto the stage (they gym doubled as an auditorium at Sacred Heart Elementary in East Grand Forks, Minnsota)–that was home run territory. He complained later that it wouldn’t have been a home run if he hadn’t have been there. It would have bounced against the stage, and I would have settled for a double. Instead, I trotted around the bases. Every kid should get to do that at least once. For me, it was exactly once, and I ain’t givin’ it back.

When: 1982
Where: East Grand Forks, Minnesota

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