My favourite day
Earlier this month, I started reading a book called “The Soul of Baseball,” written by NBC Sports columnist Joe Posnanski.
The book is about discovering baseball the way Negro League great Buck O’Neill experienced during his playing days. Why am I telling you guys this? See, the beginning of the book features a conversation between the writer and O’Neill in the back of a car on the way to Nicodemus, Kansas.
About halfway into the chat, Posnanski is asked what he would describe as his greatest baseball day. It’s a question that got me thinking. Usually, when you think about some of your favourite memories in sports, they revolve around certain acts.
That game-winning goal in high school or that diving grab in little league undoubtedly makes the highlight reels.
For me, the things that popped into my mind, with regards to baseball, are things like my first homerun in a senior-sized baseball park or a clutch bases-clearing double to take the lead, albeit a brief one, in an intermediate league playoff game in St. John’s.
Maybe it’s being at the Skydome — now the Rogers Centre — and sitting two rows from the roof in 1993 at the height of the Bluejays popularity in this country. Or, being at Comerica Park in Detorit when Tigers’ catcher Brandon Inge hit a walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth to win the game.
It could be witnessing Edwin Encarnacion hit the longest homerun I’ve ever seen hit in my life at the Rogers Centre last summer. Straight away centre field and over Windows Restaurant. It was a truly mammoth shot.
But, those are things I wouldn’t classify as my greatest day in baseball.
I think my greatest day in baseball isn’t really a day at all.
It’s learning to catch overhand pitching in my grandparents’ kitchen in Bay Roberts from my grandfather when I was five. It’s learning the game while on various trips around the province to old-timer provincial tournaments.
The late Robin Short once threatened to punch me in the mouth when I was 10 if I didn’t play first the way he showed me. I haven’t played the position any other way since that day in Port aux Port.
But, there is one memory I keep coming back to, and it doesn’t even include a baseball.
I’m in the garden with my dad when we lived in the United Church manse in Harbour Grace. I don’t even think he is wearing a glove, but I am and we’re throwing a bright red street hockey ball back and forth.
As the sun begins to fade, I can see the ball coming towards me. The ball itself is like a sun, rising and falling over the horizon as it falls into my glove.
It was in this backyard that I learned how to judge fly balls.
This yard was where my friends and I would play run downs or divide ourselves into teams and play a game until it was time to leave.
We broke windows — two in my house and one in the church alongside my home — ripped siding and dented garage doors.
That was where baseball took hold and never let go.