Littlest started a short t-ball season tonight. T-ball for 3-to-5-year-olds is chaotic to say the least (more so this season because the grass on the fields are like golf course rough and grounders are dying as soon as they hit the ground), but the Orioles had fun in their first game. His season opener seemed like a good segue into recalling my third year playing baseball as a kid, way back in 1980 (after having blogged on my first and second years).
After my Instructional League debacle, I surprisingly still wanted to play organized ball in 1980. I was moved up to Pee-Wee and was placed on the Reds, with my best friend Chris and some other friends from my grade school. Mr. Ronan and Mr. Balduf were my coaches -- both nice adults and patient coaches. This was real baseball -- no tees, no coaches pitching, no pitching machines. I had arrived.
I played third base and outfield this season. I liked third more, but after this season, I was an outfielder for the rest of my brief career (and honestly, I was probably a better outfielder). I can remember my big defensive play -- fielding a grounder cleanly, throwing all the way across to first base and getting the batter out.
I had a few hits that season, but I wasn't a great hitter by any means. I was probably near the back of the pack talent-wise on our team (I didn't earn a game ball until the last game, kind of by default because I hadn't got one, though I might have got one for my defensive gem if not another one of the smaller kids also made his big defensive play that game as well). Oddly, I don't remember too much else from this season. I just think I was an OK hitter, though I'm sure I struck out a lot. I did get hit by two pitches, one by my friend Rocco, and the other by a kid I didn't know but whose face I can still picture 31 years later. Neither HBP hurt much but still contributed to me being nervous at the plate (this would become a big issue later). And I don't remember exactly how we did as a team. I think maybe we finished fifth in a 10-team league? We were an average team with a couple good pitchers (Chris included) and some kids playing their first year of player pitch.
This I remember -- I loved playing baseball this year. I loved baseball this year, period: collecting baseball cards (the last year I seriously would), playing Strat-o-Matic (the first year I would), watching the Cubs stink it up, following a Brewers team I liked (especially Paul Molitor, who was also playing third base until this summer, when he moved to second), and wondering if George Brett would break .400 (he finished at .390). My third year of baseball wouldn't be as eventful as my fourth, but it was fun nonetheless.