category: Middle School

Steal This Base

Anyone who’s ever talked to me about playing baseball as a kid has inevitably heard my “two baseball stories” (mentioned in passing a couple years ago). To those of you, I’m sorry, but here we go again (you may want to scroll to the bottom, though, for the nifty video link). To the rest of you… beware as my head’s about to grow quite large from bragging.

Story #1

Picture it… 1987… the Major T-Shirt league… the first game of the season. Major T-Shirt was nice because it was the first year where the coaches didn’t pitch and base-stealing was allowed. At that point in my life, I was quick… I was never the biggest or most physically talented, but I was always really fast as a kid, especially in short bursts. Just the skills one needs for base-stealing on unsuspecting peers. The first game of the season, I stole every base—including home—three times. I couldn’t be stopped. I ended the year with 45 stolen bases, nine of them in that first game. “The White Vince Coleman,” they called me. Or I called myself. I can’t remember.

Story #2

In a league whose name I can’t remember—it was the one for 8th and 9th graders, but wasn’t connected to school in any way—I was playing in one of my last two seasons of baseball. I was still speedy and often taunted the pitcher and catcher by taking such a huge lead off of the base that I was literally halfway to the next base by the time the pitcher threw his pitch.

A few games into the season, the coaches saw that I was an alright fielder and a decent pitcher, but a pretty lousy hitter. I wasn’t the worst, but I was certainly in the bottom half of the team. At this point, they had me batting dead last in the line-up because I had started the year with an abysmal batting average. In the last inning, our team was down by two runs with two outs and the bases were loaded. I was up. Can you hear the dramatic music playing in the background? I can now, but then all I could hear was the coaches and my teammates groaning as Mr. Dead-Last-in-the-Lineup stepped to the plate. I didn’t even have much confidence in myself, really. But one or two pitches into the count, I swung and cracked one into deep left field, well over the head of the left fielder. The ball landed and rolled to the left field fence. One run came in easily, and so did the next. The winning run rounded third base and made it in before the throw was even in the air. Even though the game was over by professional standards, the play continued. I rounded home at top speed without even looking for the ball and made it into home, standing. A grand-slam game-winner from the last batter in the lineup. It’s the stuff great endings are made of.

The next game I was batting clean-up, but went oh-fer.

Now the video… I don’t have footage of either of the two stories above, so you’ll just have to take my word that they happened. But I do have a little footage from a Little League game in 1988 where I was playing left field and made a pretty bad ass throw to home plate. Please right-click and save the clip so you can save my bandwidth and enjoy the amazing play over and over.

(In case there was ever any doubt as to my eternal dorkiness, even after a good play, notice how when I run in from left field and jump up in triumph that I knock my own cap off. DORK!)

Names, Fire, Basketball, and Gerber

On the small cul-de-sac that I grew up on, there were only nine houses. However, in those houses there were two Brians, myself, and a girl named Ryann.

That introduction doesn’t really have much to do with the rest of the story. I just always thought it was kind of cool.

One summer day I was over Brian #1’s house shooting some hoops in his driveway. Brian #2 was also there. For some odd reason, both Brians thought it might be fun to light a small fire in the leaves in front of Brian #1’s house. I continued shooting baskets, not really having the same kind of pyromaniacal obsession that the Brians did (especially #2).

The fire started to spread into a large circle. Quickly. Brian #2 started to panic, attempting to stomp out the fire himself. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he was going to need some water to put this fire out, so he asked Brian #1 for some. But for some reason that, to this day, I can’t figure out, Brian #1 said, “Not from my house!” He was refusing to provide the water to put out the fire that was starting to spread towards his own house.

After a few more seconds of yelling back and forth, Brian #1 agreed to provide Brian #2 with water. But only “a little bit.” I kid you not, he handed Brian #2 a bucket with a half-inch of water in the bottom. Needless to say, that little bit of water did very little to aid in putting out the fire.

I was still shooting baskets, refusing to get at all involved with something I knew was going to get these guys in trouble.

Basketball and Fire

I didn’t do anything. I was just shooting baskets.

The panicked yelling back-and-forth continued until Brian #1’s mom came out of the house. When she saw the fire, she flipped, running back inside to call 911. Within a few minutes, we had two firetrucks and several police officers on the scene. And by this time, Brian #1’s mom had hooked up the garden hose. I guess she didn’t mind using her own water to put out the fire.

The fire never got fully out of control, though it certainly would have if it had burned for much longer. The fireman gave us all a lecture about the dangers of fire. Oddly, one of the fireman was Gerber’s grandson.

(Begin sidetrack moment…) Gerber was one of the legendary men that everyone knew about but nobody had ever seen. Among kids, the common question was “Wanna go to Gerber’s land?” He lived deep back in the woods behind our development and had NO TRESPASSING signs everywhere. It was a rite of passage to be able to say that you had been on Gerber’s land. His land was especially popular during the winter because, supposedly, it had good hills. Even my dad told me a story one time about when he jogged on the trails in the woods and accidentally wound up on Gerber’s property. He was chased off the land by Gerber’s infamous dogs. Gerber’s grandson appended to his speech to us, “And by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever been back there, but don’t trespass on my grandfather’s property.” (End sidetrack moment…)

Brian #1’s mom was pissed with Brian #2, but I think she almost expected something like that from him…

(Begin sidetrack moment…) Brian #2 was pretty notorious for getting in trouble. One time in fifth grade, we were standing in the hallway when our principal Mr. Learn walked by. Mr. Learn was a large redheaded man with a pretty high-pitched voice. He was always even tempered, except when he dealt with Brian #2, his archenemy. As Mr. Learn passed, Brian attempted to show us that he had big time balls and said, “Hey, Learn” just loud enough so that we could hear him but so that Mr. Learn couldn’t. Or so he thought. Mr. Learn stopped in his tracks. He turned around, his face beet red and steam coming out his ears. He stomped back towards Brian, who was standing right next to me looking terrified, and picked him up by his neck, off the floor, and slammed him against the wall. “Don’t you ever say that again!” he yelled like I had never heard before. He dropped Brian and walked away. Brian was in shock. I don’t know how that incident was ever resolved, but I know that his parents eventually did get involved. (End sidetrack moment…)

… but she was ultra-pissed with Brian #1 for being such a dumbass. The fire could have easily been contained with a quick spray from the garden hose, but Brian #1 was being stingy for a reason I still can’t comprehend. She was also annoyed with me for not having played mediator between the two Brians and just continuing to play basketball during the whole event.

The large black circle in the leaves in front of Brian #1’s house reminded all of us for a long time exactly how stupid three kids can be. We were Monkey See, Monkey Do, and Monkey Who Won’t Give Up His Water.