Humanity needs to dream. It is an ability that separates us from lesser creatures. Sometimes, we don’t even realize we have a dream until we stand in the midst of it! I was quite young when I realized this. I was a seventh grader at Sabin Grade School in Portland, Oregon. My teacher was the very handsome Mr. Gilman. At a younger age, for a year or two, I had been exempt from P.E. due to heat rash. So, when the opportunity to play baseball opened up to me, I was bit behind.
I spent much of my baseball career in second field, out of touch and petting any stray dog that happened by. Sabin was surrounded by a neighborhood, so dogs ran rampant and leash laws had yet to be enforced. I still find the initials P.E. strange. I get it, physical education, however I still have a heard time with the education part. Maybe it has to do with learning to cooperate with others in a team sport. Anyway, I did not excel. Although always chosen last, I was anything but disheartened. All of this leads me to my unforgettable “shining hour.”
On a late Spring morning, the team captains chose their teams. Naturally, I was chosen last. We all took our places and the game commenced. I tried not to screw up and had long since given up ever catching a fly ball. I knew that winning the game was important to my team. I gave a dynamite imitation of sincerity as I jogged in from the field to the bench. My ability to choose a bat by feel was nonexistent, so I used the one handed to me. Best of all would be the games in which I would not even have to swing; the games where I would be back in the field before my heartbeat slowed down!
The game I remember and write about here is the one cast in stone in my memory. The two captains were “A” students and those “A’s” stood not only for academic but also for athletic. They took the game seriously. It was not just the dreaded P.E. to them. When either one chose a team member, they meant business. I was chosen second to the last. The game moved right along. I happily watched from left field – all the while hoping I would not have to catch the ball. Then my team was up to bat.
I began to make extraordinary promises to the powers that be if only I would not have to go up to bat! Well, the powers were not listening. I ended up at bat with bases loaded and my team within reach of winning the game. I felt like throwing up! So, there I stood trying hard to look as if I knew what I was doing. The team captain told me to choke up on the bat. I felt like choking up and throwing up at the same time. All at once, a still small voice in my head ventured forth with “you can do it!”
I can still see that ball coming. I swung as hard as I could. The ball took flight and somebody shouted “RUN!” I took off as all three members of my team made home base followed by me! Finest moment? Yup! Forever in my memory? You bet. With bases loaded, I hit that ball to kingdom come! To this day, I love watching Robert Redford in “The Natural.” For one game in grade school that is how I felt.