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Diamonds are Forever
Sports taught us a lot as young southern boys. Teamwork. Discipline. Shittalking. How to turn pain into something productive like pride or praise. While I was never what you might call “a natural,” baseball was my sport. Mostly because it involved a lot of standing around and doing nothing. I once chewed half a pack of Red Man and ate two corn dogs without ever leaving the field. Basketball just doesn’t allow for such repose. Baseball is probably best suited to Jews and Presbyterians, since one can play it on Sunday and remain completely at rest.
When I first started playing baseball I was the whole team. Standing yonder in the back yard with a broom handle and wad of gray duct tape, I would pitch, wiggle my behind, and then swing for all I was worth. Some days I was a great pitcher, striking myself out. Other days I would get a piece of that make-shift ball, knocking it over the clothesline where our unmentionables flapped lazily in the breeze. For you neophytes unacquainted with the rules of the game, that constitutes a homerun.
I didn’t know that regular people, the kind that didn’t live in the TV, got together to play baseball until I was around 11. A kid at school named Vic Barrett told me his momma was starting up a team for us boys. Vic told me we could be the Cardinals or the Braves and that we would have all Summer to whip the Giants and the Padres (the Mexican team from the tomato farm) and the Yankees from all the way up at Monticello, 30 miles north.
Baseball was a revelation to me. We didn't always win, but we didn't exactly lose either. Or at least I didn't. Because I got to play with friends. I am still close to friends today that I met somewhere between home plate and centerfield. That spray-painted diamond became an oasis in my rural desert, a place where a lonely boy from the woods could drink in the conviviality and comradery. I guess that’s another reason I always enjoyed the leisurely pace of the game. I never wanted it to end.