August Journaling Day 21: Baseball

Baseball was my first love. When I tell you how much I thought about and played baseball as a kid, it’s crazy to think about. EVERY DAY I swung a bat. Inside, outside, rain or shine, didn’t matter. I spent countless hours scouring statistics, reading books, and soaking in any and everything to do with baseball. And after seeing the movie Eight Men Out, I became obsessed with the Black Sox. My poor mother used to drive me all over the Puget Sound area looking for cards or memorabilia or anything to do with the 1919 Sox.

Most of my best childhood friendships came from baseball. My first travel experiences to the eastern US, Chicago and New York, were both because of baseball. So many stories and good memories are from baseball. Yet nowadays, I don’t watch it or care about it nearly as much as I used to. I will go in small waves of following, but mostly I check the scores and standings once or twice a week, go to a couple games a year, and that’s it. This past spring I did go to a handful of Clearwater Threshers games and followed them closely for a couple months and really did enjoy watching more baseball.

I can’t pinpoint where it was that my love for baseball seemed to fall off. Because in 2001, the year dad died and the year the Mariners won 116 games, I must have gone to 40 home games and watched every other game on tv. However fast forward to the mid 2000s and horse racing had replaced baseball as my most passionate sports follow. I think the real separation started when I moved to Portland full-time, where baseball is only played at the minor league level. Because when I was in Cincinnati I watched Reds games all the time. But once I got to Portland my focus went much more towards racing and honestly just other things in life like music and dating.

I can’t write about baseball without thinking about my Dad. He was a very good player in high school and was a full scholarship player at Washington State University in college. He would often tell me stories about his glory days and to say I was transfixed with hearing them would be an understatement. I remember reading his scrapbook that my grandma Beem kept with all the articles of his pitching exploits. One story I remember was Dad telling me about how during a football game he was playing Quarterback and the little nose tackle got to him and there was a dog pile on top of them. To quote my dad “this little fucker reached down and squeezed my nuts like a vice when we were under the pile.” Fast forward to spring baseball and the nose tackle was the leadoff hitter for the rival team. Dad planted a fastball just above the guys ear, sending him to the hospital. He seemed oddly proud of doing something that could have killed the guy, but to hear him tell the story made it somehow seem funny. The coach for that other team accused dad of doing it on purpose, so later that game dad attempted a pick off move to 3rd but threw the ball right at the coach in the third base coaching box, hitting him in the ribs. He said he sacrificed the run to get back at the guy. I don’t know if he was telling the truth about either of those stories or if they were embellished, but they 100% sound like something he would have done.

My dream as a little boy was to be a professional baseball player and I think I held onto that until around age 14. Then I downgraded my goals to getting a college scholarship, preferably to Arizona State. By the time I was 16, I just wanted to make the high school team. I got cut as a sophomore and to my opinion and my dad’s opinion, it was because of some politics. Dad coached the top 18 year old summer team and my high school coach coached the other one. So he cut me even though I probably should have been on the team. So I switched high schools the next year, just for baseball. I knew two people at the new school and had no guarantees of making the team there. But at the time baseball was maybe the only thing I had in my life that I felt good at. I had a few friends and never had any interest from girls, so this was my one thing where I kind of fit in. The school transfer was a massive blessing as I just seemed to fit in better at that school in all avenues of school life, including baseball. When we played my old school my senior year I had a big go-ahead double late in the game and remember staring back at the other coach waiting for him to look at me. He never did, but years later he did send me an email saying I did good. So that was nice.

I had a couple of junior college offers to play ball, but I was kind of over it by the time high school was over. My dad being our coach and just being how he was made me want to distance myself from it a bit. And I’ve mostly stayed distant from baseball with a few exceptions. In the spring of 2021 I got the chance to coach little league with my friend Chris as his two boys were on a team. It was absolutely some of the most fun I’ve had as an adult. The kids were such good kids and they tried so hard and really wanted to be good ballplayers. I would love to get to coach again someday but I just don’t know if my work schedule will allow it.

Baseball is a great game and I do hope to have it a little more in my life than it is now or has been really the last fifteen years. My dad’s coaching mantra used to always be “play harder, longer.” Whenever I think about him these days that quote often pops into my head. “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

My dad and I at Kent Memorial Park on May 18, 1998. It was my 18th birthday and that ball I’m holding had just an inning earlier gone about 460 feet off of my bat. Ok maybe 380, but that shit was crushed.