One Hundred and Eighty Foot Solo Baseball
The home-run fence in our local Little League Park was about 180 feet from home plate. Not only did I know this distance to be accurate but I had actually paced it out in the local Little League ball park. I would often play a game of solo baseball in our yard. I would throw the ball up in the air and try to hit it as hard as I could. I always used the newest baseball that I had, my theory was that it would fly or go higher and the best bat (less cracks and screws in it) to maximize the distance. I had paced out various landmarks or trees in my yard and knew the distance from where I usually batted. I would often spend hours playing this game of solo baseball hoping to break this 180 foot barrier. Weather conditions did not matter. It was often oppressively hot and humid during the summer, but I kept throwing the ball up in the air and swinging as hard as I could. I often heard the cicada’s loud call while I was playing this solitary game of home run derby. I played in the rain and since I had only one good baseball, I retrieved the ball after each hit and then went back to “home plate” to hit the next one. There was a lot of walking in this game and lots of flub hits, but I don’t really remember completely missing the ball very often when I threw it up in the air. Imagination was a critical part of this game and I often used situations like the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game World Series. Major league pitchers were also on the mound bearing down on me. I kept whacking the ball retrieving it and them walking back to home plate. I never really got tired or bored of this game.
During my last year of Little League I clearly remember the Friday that I actually hit the ball over 180 feet and past the tree landmark in my back yard. I was elated and actually went into a home run trot when I retrieved the baseball. More importantly I now knew that I had the power and confidence to hit a home run. A week later in a Little League game (I played for the Warriors which had green hats and a big W on them) I actually hit a home run that barely went over the fence in left field. I remember that it was also oppressively hot especially in the wool uniforms that we had to wear. Wool was used in an attempt to make the uniforms indestructible and passed down from year to year. Luckily they provided us with plenty of water which we drank out of a bucket (usually devoid of dead bugs) in the dugout from a long handled metal cup.
I did not think that I had hit the ball that hard, and ran as hard as I could with my head down. It was not until I rounded second base that I heard the third base coach yell, “Slow down Tommy, it went over the fence.” I quickly went into a good home run trot and all my teammates’ mobbed me when I crossed the plate. When my teammates asked me if I had known that it was going out I sheepishly responded, “I thought I hit it good but wasn’t sure so I kept hustling.”
180 solo baseball had finally paid off!