Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Steamboat Springs The fly ball has been my white whale — the object of many a childhood memory, most of which still bring about a grimace.
The worst was when I was about 11 years old. I was playing for our town’s kid pitch baseball team, holding down right field — you know, where the dandelions grow and all that. We were in the championship game of the league tournament.
Just how good we were every year depended on how the age classifications fell. When my class was lumped with the one ahead of us in school, as it was that year, we were really good. We had athletes all over and pitchers I, at the time, was pretty sure were going to get a crack at the Big Leagues.
Just how much fun I had ran on an exactly inverse schedule. Some of those “athletes” were jerks, especially Stevie Martin, the biggest, meanest bully the world (my world) has ever known.
In addition to making fun of everyone, punching people for no reason and trying to make me eat bugs, Stevie was the bane of my existence because he played first base. When Stevie’s class was a level up from us, about every other year, I was the team’s first baseman. And I was OK. I was no George Brett — by the time I started paying attention to the Royals, his career was near its end, and he had switched from third to first — but I definitely was good for some .300 hitting and big scoops with the first baseman’s mitt my uncle gave me.
When we were coupled with that older class, I was marooned in right field for as few innings each game as the coach was required to play me. He was Stevie’s uncle. Go figure. It didn’t help my cause that I’ve always been terrible at long fly balls.
It all amounted to one of my worst days, the day of the championship game when I was about 11.
This ogre from the other team hit a long, deep fly ball. I ran for it and woulda, coulda, shoulda had it.
I didn’t, and it flew just beyond the left side of my glove and rolled to the fence. He cleared the bases. It was early in the game, but we didn’t have a comeback in us.
My baseball career didn’t end there, though ol’ Stevie never let me forget. I had other good seasons, years that were tons of fun and in which I was a major contributor. I finally turned in my glove before high school.
It was all over until this year, anyway, when we assembled a D league softball team for the city’s rec league. Our team consists of some people from the paper and pretty much everyone else we know.
It’s been going OK. Fly balls still confound me a little bit and that has hurt us a couple times. Catching seems to be a bit of a team weakness, though, and our fortunes have been rising and falling based on our defensive prowess on any given night.
Mostly, though, it’s been a blast. Our team is fun, and the game is fun. Whether I’m playing first base or third base or left field or right field, whether we’re ahead by 4 or down by 20, it’s been great to get back out and play. As always has been the case, ball without Stevie has proven pretty awesome.