As I get older, I am constantly amazed at the ancient personal memories that get stuck in my head:
In the summer of my sixth year on earth, my t-ball team, the crickets, met the birds in the t-ball championship. In case you are not familiar, t-ball was the baseball starter league for 5 and 6 year-olds where players hit the ball from a stationary tee. Everyone got to play with about twelve kids in the outfield at a time. You might think this would be unfair and lead to low scoring games except for the fact that when the ball came to most of the kids in the outfield, they just threw their gloves in the air and started running. Sometime they even ran toward the ball.
We were probably the third or fourth best team in the league while the birds were the equivalent of the New York Yankees. They were undefeated and won their games by an average score of 33 - 5. Despite the odds against us, we played well and kept the game close. Early in the game, the ball came to me in shallow left field. As a runner ran toward third base, I picked up the ball ready to throw him out. Unfortunately, our third baseman who I shall call Brooks, stood with his back to me, and staring at I don't know what. He certainly wasn't staring at girls unless he was trying to figure out which ones had cooties.
"Brooks," I yelled as I wound up ready to throw. "Brooks! Over here! Come on!"
Maybe because of the loud screaming parents, he didn't hear me. The runner neared third base so I finally just threw the ball at Brooks hoping he would turn around. The ball bounced off the back of his head. I had to run and pick up the ball while the runner scored. Luckily, Brooks shook it off, and if we were lucky, the ball knocked some sense into him.
We finally took the lead but the birds got to bat last. We just needed three outs for immortal t-ball glory. The birds scored a few runs to pull within one, but there were two outs with runners on first and second. With a force out at any base, things looked good. The next batter hit the ball on the ground right to me. I scooped it up knowing we just needed the force out at third. I pulled my arm back ready to throw. Brooks stood on third base waiting to catch it.
I hesitated remembering what happened last time. But Brooks stood on the bag with his glove open ready for the throw. I quickly decided to do the sure thing; I took off running figuring I could beat the baserunner to third base. Brooks yelled at me to throw it, but even a ten meter throw from a 6 year old is no sure thing. I focused on the runner; I had a step on him. But he had an extra gear and managed to get in front of me.
He made it the base first while I came in hoping I could tag him if he stepped off the base. Instead, I tripped over the base and fell into foul territory. Luckily I held onto the ball. The umpire helped me up and I noticed the birds cap on his head. Even if I had tackled the baserunner and tagged him out fifty times, he probably still would have been called safe.
Our coaches told us to cheer up and focus. After all, we still only needed one more out with the bases loaded. But the next batter hit the ball over everyone's head as our outfielders threw their gloves in the air and ran away from the ball.
The birds won.
I learned two valuable lessons that day:
1. If you want to make sure something gets done, do it yourself.
2. If you do something yourself and do not achieve the desired results, expect persons in authority (and teammates) to get mad at you.
I've been wondering why I keep thinking about that game lately. At first I thought I remembered that I had beaten the runner, and the umpire had made a bad call. All these years later, I felt the deep wound of injustice. But I guess that was selective memory trying to rewrite my history. Upon further review, I still remembered what really happened. So even after forty years, I still can't outrun my mistakes, much less the kid running to third base.