This is a post for The Write On Project
topic: Before Children
The games would often start before the remnants of sleep were shaken from our heads, sometimes as early as 11:15. Once Chris had donned his green Chuck Taylors and the speakers were oriented in Brad’s bedroom window to maximize both field coverage and neighborhood annoyance we were ready. Our weaponry would be gathered and a triumphant call would echo through the apartments lining Seventh Avenue.
They were glorious times. Upon that hill, on that block we carved into the pavement our legend that was sure to be told for ages to come. The contests were as much of steely will and impertinent mouth as they were of runs and outs. We gave no quarter and asked none in return. We were titans with plastic bats and sneakers. We were in our twenties and had nothing better to do.
They were simple times. We were all single, none of us had kids and many of us worked at a local microbrewery, all of which dictated a life of serious screwing around – screwing around being the only thing we did take seriously. Well, that and our Wiffle ball games.
The rules were straightforward. Home Run Derby. It was generally a three man game, but many could play based on a scientifically calculated rotation. The pitcher was to serve up big homers on a platter. The batter was to deliver said big homers. The catcher was to refresh himself with an icy cold beverage while occasionally retrieving an errant ball so it didn’t roll all the way down Cedar Street. Strike outs were outs and justification for staggering amounts of verbal abuse courtesy of anyone in the vicinity. Hits that failed to clear the predetermined home run line between the telephone pole and Paula’s house, where she made ridiculous gnocchi by hand, were outs. And fly balls caught by either the pitcher or the newly refreshed catcher were worth two outs, though the batter could physically impede such efforts as long as he dropped the bat first. (This twist was a lot of fun until our Navy SEAL buddy played. Turns out special forces hand-to-hand combat training translates seamlessly to the aforementioned two-out, batless defense rule, which I learned the hard way. He didn’t need a bat and I didn’t catch the ball.) The stucco retaining wall on the right and the blue porch on the left were the foul poles. Home plate was a stain on the road that lined up with Brad’s be-speakered window. The games lasted until we were done.
It was beautiful.
Sometimes the games were just Brad, Chris and me, as we all lived there. Often, though, friends with a similar amount of nothing better to do would join us. Lining the street and our front yard, we just played. There was no yesterday and no tomorrow. Plans for the future meant what to do when the game was over. We laughed a lot.
I remember so much from these games. I remember Soul Coughing coming from Brad’s window. I remember Adam pulling nearly every pitch he saw foul in apparent defiance of the general laws of physics and smiling the whole time. I remember Brad heroically diving into the bushes for a foul ball, catching it and permanently scarring himself in the process. I remember Sherman running down a seemingly guaranteed homer faster than anyone that was up as late as we were the night before should be able. I remember every one of us looking really serious just for a second as the pitch came in. I remember the roar when someone would hit it over the phone line. I remember passers-by laughing at these adult-sized children. I remember feeling very lucky to be there, to be doing that, to be with those guys.
That all seems like a lifetime ago now – and in some sense it was. Life has changed for us all and moments with nothing to do are more unusual now than obligations were then. I don’t mourn the end of those games but I am sure thankful for the memories.
I think it may be about time to teach my girls the fine art of Wiffle ball.