They say baseball brings out the child in them.
Even as we grow older, however, some of our childhood pastimes don’t fade out of the spotlight.
I grew up spending every summer hour from dawn to dusk in my backyard.
My best friend and I would play “fake games,” which consisted of imaginary wiffleball games where the two of us played both teams and all 18 players. We tossed the ball up to ourselves and let our creativity unfold the rest.
I’d step up to the plate, pretending I was the actual player.
When Andres Galarraga stepped to the plate, my stance was open. When it was Dante Bichette’s turn in the lineup I would remove my hat from my head, run my fingers through my imaginary long hair, and clinch both hands on the ends of the bat and circle it over my head like he used to do.
We had a magic erase board for the scoreboard and my dog’s pen for the dugout.
One summer when my next door neighbor was getting his house painted, the painters stayed late so they could listen to the excitement in our voices as we called the game.
Perhaps that was the game that concluded when Larry Walker hit a walk-off home run, clanking off the neighbor’s house, still fresh with wet paint.
When my friend wasn’t around, the baseball didn’t stop.
I used my pitch-back to, again, throw my imaginary games. This time I was the actual player on the roster, playing for a big league team.
I gave myself four seconds to field the ball, throw it to the net and have it bounce back into my glove in order to record an out. For every four seconds it took to do that, it was another base.
I even kept track of stats and recorded them into a document on the computer. After the game I would conduct my own postgame interviews, where I, both the analyst and the manager, would discuss the game and box score.
Now, a decade later, I’m a 20-year-old grown man and my imagination still runs wild.
There is no greater summer evening activity than getting friends together for a game of wiffleball.
My friend has an ideal wiffleball yard, full of fenced off home run areas, a short porch in right field and the giant pine tree, ruled as an automatic ground rule double.
Two floodlights make up the lighting so the games can stretch well into the evening while a homemade block of wood marks the strike zone.
We’ll even cut the grass into a baseball diamond and chalk the base paths with flour.
It’s now my turn to bat. Two pitches go by, the latter banking off the wooden strike zone. On the third pitch I take a swing and watch it soar.
“That one’s hit deep,” I shout out. “Back, to the track, you can kiss it goodbye.”
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