Baseball has always been a favorite sport for me to watch. I have been fortunate in my sports journalism career to follow several quality programs and individual teams which have made strong postseason runs.

Even as I sat frozen in space last week at a local game, it was still nice to be at the ball field. Even in Georgia those early-season games can be brutal when it comes to the elements.

Once upon a time I tried my hand at playing America’s pastime. While I never came close to making it to the pros or even competing in college or high school, those times on the diamond are still etched in my mind.

I played one year of Pee Wee baseball before four seasons of Little League. During that first season for the Pee Wee Falcons, we resembled the Bad News Bears in many ways. One player would have fit in without hesitation.

Some of the stunts that teammate pulled still get laughs when I relay them today. One time after he struck out at the plate during a game the teammate of mine was told by the home plate umpire “Strike Three! You’re Out!” This caused the response of “No I’m not!”

My teammate refused to return to the dugout despite our coach pleading with him to do so. The opposing pitcher shrugged his shoulders kept throwing baseballs to home plate and my teammate continued to swing and miss. The umpire eventually declared “Strike Eight!” which caused a roar of laughter from those who were in attendance.

This same teammate showed up to practice one day without his glove, something even at that young age was really necessary to play (or practice). The coach asked him where his glove was and he responded by saying, “It’s at home. My mom baked it in a pie.”

My coach was at a complete loss for a response and just went about his business of conducting practice. Ironically in the team photo that year my teammate did not have his glove. I guess it was around the time it was baked as an after-dinner treat.

The next four years saw me compete for the Little League Red Sox. Each year my team’s record improved, and by my final season we were competing for the league title.

The championship came down to the final game of the season. All we needed to do was win and we were league champions. I could see the trophy already being presented to us. My mind went crazy envisioning a championship parade. People were cheering, balloons being released and the trophy was ours.

Unfortunately, we lost the game in the bottom half of the last inning by one run. We held the lead needing just one more out to win the contest and the league championship, however, it was not meant to be.

That turned out to be my final game in my “storied” baseball career. I was not good enough to play at the next level of recreation baseball and I knew it.

By the time I reached high school, I was still not good enough to seriously be on the team. I was asked by the coach my ninth-grade year about trying out but it’s always smart to know one’s limitations. I think the coach just wanted me to be on the team to help keep organized stats but I declined.

I was never the best player on any team I competed for (far from it) but I enjoyed my time on the diamond. Friendships were formed and being part of a team is something I have always prided myself on.

Through the decades that I have been a sports writer, I always think about those days when I cover a game. Important lessons can be learned through athletics and competing in recreation baseball was something I was glad I took part in. That’s still true even when one teammate strikes out and refuses to return to the dugout.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former editor of the Barrow News-Journal. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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