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Whack!!! Crack of bat means it's spring

March 19, 2008
Officially, spring has arrived. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's really spring. We all have our indicators. Some people believe that when the trees begin to bud out, that spring is here. Some think that when they hear frogs singing, spring has sprung. Still, others believe that it's spring when the mushrooms begin showing themselves above the ground.

But that's all hogwash. Just ask any sixth-grader if you want to know when it's REALLY spring, and they'll sum it all up in just one word — Baseball!!!

When I was in the fifth, sixth and even the seventh grade, someone would start it off by bringing their ball glove to school. The next day, there would be a ball glove hanging from the belt of almost every boy who got on the school bus. The school always furnished the bats and balls, but everyone had to supply their own glove.

But even though we were chomping at the bit, ready for the first throw, we weren't allowed on the ball diamond until Mr. Pyles, the janitor, checked it out, determined it was no longer muddy, and gave a thumbs up to the teachers.

Sometimes, it would go on for days. We'd watch from the lunchroom windows while Mr. Pyles would mosey down to the ball diamond with his hands in his pockets and walk around the field. If there was any mud whatsoever on his shoes, we were out of luck.

It was almost like he enjoyed seeing us suffer. He knew we were all watching, waiting breathlessly for the big decision — that's why he would always just mosey. And he'd stop about every 20 feet and look back at us. I just know he enjoyed having that much power and control. And there were times when we couldn't see a bit of mud on those shoes, but he'd report back to the teachers that it wasn't quite ready. It's a wonder we didn't develop some kind of complex.

But, finally, he'd strut back to the lunchroom, avoid looking us in the eye, and tell the teachers, "Well, I guess they can try it, but if they track any mud in on my floors, blah blah blah blah blah." We were already out the door in a dead run.

"I'm catching" — "I've got first base" — "Oh no, you don't, Jenkins, I've already got dibs on first" — "I'm on McKinney's team" — "Me, too" — "Hey, all you guys can't be on McKinney's team, we need some of the good hitters, too" — "OK, Barnes, you go over to Ferguson's team" — "No way! I'm not playing with that bunch of sissies" — "Hey, Freddy, can I use your glove while you guys are up to bat? I left mine on the bus this morning" — "Anybody got a quarter? OK, heads or tails, Ferguson? — "OK, you guys are up to bat first." — "I'm pitching" — "Ah come on, don't let him pitch, McKinney, he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn"— "Well, he can't catch a fly ball either, where am I supposed to put him?"— "Put him on third, nothing ever happens there"— "OK, Nichols, you're on third. Cable, you're pitching."

And the first ball was thrown — Swoosh!! "Strike one" — "Hey, Bailey, choke up on the bat a little" — Swoosh!!! "Strike two" — "Come on, Bailey, hit the ball" — Swoosh!!! "Strike three" — "Ah come on, Bailey, why did you swing at that? OK, Miller, you're up."

"Hey, you guys, Miller's up. Back up out there. Keep your eyes open, Hart, he always hits to left field."

Whack!!! "Go, Miller, keep going, keep going"

"I got it, I got it" — — ouch!

"I told you, Hart. You never listen, pick it up, pick it up — to third, throw it to third — — Oh no, Nichols, you should have had that."

"OK, guys, Thompson's up. He's a wimp. Burn him a fast ball in there, Cable. He's scared of em', move in a little guys, he's the ground ball king."

Whack!! "Whoa — grab it, grab it —— Ah, Spencer, what's wrong with you — I don't care if it did bounce, you should have had it. Ah, you big baby, your lip will heal. I think Spencer may have to go home to Mommy, he hurt his little lip. … OK, Behr's up, back up guys, back way up... watch him, Cable, you know how he is with those line drives. You OK, Spencer? Let's see — yeah, you'll be all right. …"

So, let the frogs sing, and the trees bud, and the mushrooms grow. But that's all just meaningless Old Farmer's Almanac stuff. It'll never really be spring until we hear — "You're out! — "I'm safe" — "Oh no, you're out" — "Uh uh, I was safe" — "What?, the ball beat you to first base by a mile"— "Oh yeah, only in your dreams Ferguson, only in your dreams."

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