My favourite day

The Compass - - SPORTS - Nick Mercer Nicholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.

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