February–too cold to throw outside. Gymnasium. Bleachers stacked high. My teammates lined up next to each other. Two arm lengths away. Way too close, I thought. My throwing parter waved his glove. I ran my fingers across the baseball seams. My throwing partner waved again, impatient. Too close, I whispered. Still, I reared back, pushed the ball, and it crashed against the stone and wood.
The gym became quiet. The ball bounced and rolled.
I blamed it on the guy next to me. Everyone laughed.
My throwing partner said, “It’s ok. Slow down.”
I reared back again, letting it fly. Crash.
I still remember the day I couldn’t throw to first base anymore. Since I was four, I had played ball. I could throw a strike from the outfield and turn the occasional head on the mound (good but not tapped for greatness). And then, the magic up and left. It’s impossible to explain. Nerves? Not really. Mechanics? Nah. It’s so hard to describe Steve Blass syndrome. It happened to me, and I imagined I shed a tear. Thanks Rick Ankiel, your story is worth telling.
- I’m still frustrated to this day. But, now and then, I can still rear back and throw a bolt from the heavens only to be sore for weeks ahead. Yet, touching the seams is worth the pain if only to be a kid again.
- The picture is of my baseball glove cleaned up after a Saturday garage cleaning.