Tuesday, September 23, 2003

of playgrounds and baseball

I'm away at a training for work living in a hotel room for the week. It's not so bad, the hotel caters to those long terms residents, it has two burners, a mini-fridge a sink and microwave, not to mention a jacuzzi for a bath tub in the room. PLUS it's cheaper than most of the regular hotels around here. (Thank you Orbitz).

Anyway, I turn on the TV and flip is to the A's game against the Rangers. There pitchinging in the 7th inning for the Texas Rangers with the game 2-2 is Ryan Drese. And suddenly, I'm 12 years old playing strike-out at the elementery school playground during the hot summer days.

His face is fuller, the solid jaw of a young man. He's much bigger than when he was 11, but he still has the same eyes. He pitches through the 9th inning. He does well, gets 11 pop up outs. I know he's not playing for the home team, but part of me cheers for him.

Ryan grew up down the street from the elementery school. I remember he had a paper route. [I remember because me and a friend did his paper route when his family went on vacation once.] During the summers there was a group of us that hung out at the elementery school and spent our days playing tag on the play structure, basketball, strikeout against the school wall, Uno card games, and occasional water balloon fights.

On the playground we dreamed of being Michael Jordan on the sloped basketball courts where the 3-pointers were shorter on one end of the court than the other or Nolan Ryan pitching tennis balls against a worn painted rectangle on the school wall that was our designated umpire. Strikeout was a one on one game, one pitcher, one hitter, sometimes two on two with an outfielder. We designated lines on the playground to determine singles, doubles, triples and foul balls. Singles up to the basketball poll, doubles over by the play structure, triples to the fence, homeruns over the fence. We even disputed calls against the painted rectangle, whether the ball touched the line or not, strike or ball.

There were only two girls in the bunch me and the younger sister of one of the guys. We would all go to the same junior high where we continued to play baseball and basketball for the school teams. In high school we separated to different schools, some public some private. I would run into the different guys later on at basketball games, track meets and baseball games. All of them exceling in their different sports.

Ryan would later play for Cal. I didn't see him play there though I ran into him on campus once. After college I read in a local paper how Ryan went to the majors. He bounced up and down between minors and majors for a bit, then when Major League Baseball expanded their roster limits, he was brought up to majors.

The tv shows his ERA 6.37, the lowest amongst the active pitchers. The commentators are kind to him, say he pitched well during the 5 innings he was in. None of his innings reach the highlight reel which is good. The game ends, A's win 4-3 in the 10th. A's win the American League West, but hometown boy does good.

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