It’s Thursday night, a special Veteran’s Day game night. Excitement in the stands is high. Kickoff is moments away. The referees mill about on the field. The cheerleaders stand on each other’s shoulders displaying a sign the size of a king sized sheet, exhorting their team to pound their crosstown rivals. The home team bursts though the paper sign and runs onto the field at…Burroughs High School? Whoa, whoa, wait. Why am I here? I don’t go back to high school. It was fun and all, but it’s been over for a long time and I am not one of the people Bruce Springsteen had in mind when he wrote Glory Days.
Oh yeah, my friend Leggz is in town. Leggz joined the Air Force right out of high school and has led an amazing life all over the world. Once every other year or so when she comes for a visit, I find myself happily doing a lot of things I would not normally do, like going back to Burbank to hang out, going to reunions and, yes, even attending our alma mater’s homecoming game. It was great to see Leggz, nice to see some other folks I have not seen in a while, and the team gave us an entertaining game. But this was a surreal experience.
So, what does this have to do with baseball? While I was waiting in the long line to buy a soda from the booster club moms and dads (none of them my classmates yet, whooo hooo!) I heard a distinctive voice behind me booming “Hey, Stat Girl!” It was our old baseball coach, now retired and looking like a man enjoying life. I was an enthusiastic softball player as a young person, but never good enough to play outside of the middle rung ponytail leagues. So in high school I kept stats for the baseball team and had a blast doing it…and being the only girl on a bus full of teenage boys was only a small part of the allure, thank you very much 😉
Our league didn’t have special tables for the statisticians so I sat in the dugout with the team, on the far end of the bench with a great view of the whole field – very convenient for coach. “Hey, Stat Girl, remind me what this guy did to us last time.” “Double into left center, Coach.” *grunted thanks followed by gestures rearranging the outfield* This was also convenient for the players. Having a bad game? The guys kept the razzing to a minimum towards my end of the dugout, so the other side of the stat girl was the safety zone, apparently. Also, I’m a good listener, especially when I’m that close to the game.
Initially, I kept the more astute baseball talk to a minimum. Boys look at you funny otherwise, right? Except for baseball players, I found out to my delight – and men, as I found out later and even more to my delight. But one game, a player in the middle of a rough stretch at the plate was grousing about not being able to figure it out and I couldn’t keep it light anymore. “You’ve started to rest the bat on your shoulder. You don’t have your swing when you rest the bat on your shoulder.” The player at first looked at me really funny, then digested what I said and asked a few more questions. Soon, word spread and more baseball talk followed, first with that player and then the others and, halfway through the season, the stat corner ceased to be a razzing free zone because razzing, after all, is acceptance. Keeping stats for those three seasons in high school made me feel more connected to the game of baseball than ever and it was nice to take a few minutes, at a game I barely wanted to attend, to reminisce with Coach and catch up.
You can’t go home again, not really. And for the most part this is a good thing. We grow up, move on, and retain the parts of our past that are meaningful and important. However, every now and then, and most often when Leggz is in town, making the attempt to go home again yields some unexpectedly fun results.
We now leave this little trip down memory lane and return you to your regularly scheduled MLB programming.