Boys of Summer

I was such a tragically bad baseball player when I was in first grade. My team, if I recall correctly, had a Bass Pro Shops sponsorship (this was back in the day before Bass Pro was any more than a sporting goods store in Springfield, Missouri). My ability on the field did not go beyond being able to wear the baseball cap properly. After that, I have to think I was a source of endless frustration and embarrassment for my father. That said, being the guy he was, my dad continued to encourage me through all sporting endeavors all the way through high school. I don’t think he ever missed a baseball, basketball, or football game. The first time I ever caught a pass in the end zone (button hook from the right side, hard missile into my chest against Ozark High School), I looked in the stands and there was my dad losing his damned mind he was so happy. It’s still a memory that makes me tear up a bit. If you’re looking to get back into sporting activities or to get your children involved in a sport, look into sporting clubs such as Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club and more.

The good thing was, my brother turned out to be a pretty good athlete who could hit dingers, plow nosetackles, and eagle the par fives at Deer Lake. My dad got to see a son play well in the sporting arenas, and that always made me happy. Oh, and lest you think I’m harboring some age-old resentment, my dad taught me to play guitar and poker, which happen to be my two favorite recreational activities to this day.

Last night, I went back to the baseball fields for the first time in a while.

I’ve recently been wondering if I have any ability with the camera outside of shooting seated poker players and my kid. As it happened, my friend BadBlood‘s son is playing ball this summer and his parents wanted some pictures. What’s more, my kid adores the miniBloods and is taking an early liking to baseball. It sounded like a good family evening.

I recall a particular joy as a kid. Whether it was my dad going to play softball with his Roark-sponsored team (followed by pizza at Shotgun Sams), or any of my or Dr. Jeff’s games, there were so many constants. The dust was omnipresent. The concession stands all looked the same. The bubblegum on the sidewalks formed a path to each field. The bleachers all felt the same and the people in them all shared the same look–we’re tired, but there are few places we’d rather be right now.

Last night, my kid was one of the kids who didn’t maintain attention for more than couple innings. In fact, after miniBlood knocked one to right field and made it all the way home, my kid decided he was going to practice his homeruns. Into the dust he ran, making tracks for an invisible homeplate. “I made homerun, Dad!” he yelled from across the field.

I spent my time looking through a lens at a kid who didn’t seem like he could be more at ease. I occasionally stole a look at his proud dad and thought, “I’m going to be there in a few years.” My job was made easier by the fact that miniBlood was pretty damned good, and much better than most, if not all, of the kids on the field.

It was a little after seven when I looked down at my kid’s dirty feet and up at my wife’s sun-drenched face. Both looked like they were ready for bed.

I could only think, “Just wait. In a few years, L’il Otis will be tending to the hot corner while mommy wonders how she’s going to get the grass stains out of his pants.”

Whether the kid gets his dad’s or his uncle Jeff’s athletic skills, I can’t wait.

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Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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7 Responses

  1. Thanks again kind sir. Can’t wait to see the rest of them.

  2. Awesome stuff. That pic of miniBlood fielding a ground ball is beautiful. You almost make me want to settle down and get me a little one. Almost. See you in a month.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous says:

    Very, very nice pics!! Contest/Print worthy. I’m seeing cover for next year’s community spring/summer activity magazine. Maybe your next job should be Sports Photographer for ESPN-seriously,
    franky5angel aka fb aka lude.

  4. Very impressed with the action photo. I think I can see Blood beaming from here in the Midwest.

  5. Love the grounder shot, and I’m in the same boat waiting for the boy to start playing so I can correct his stance and argue strike calls with the 15 year old umpire getting $10 a game.

  6. Hey Otis…. Great pics! Also fantastic storyline for the post.
    Very well done sir !

  7. You’re obviously a horrible father–get this southpaw on a mound now! There is no reason to have him in the infield as these formative years are critical to build up his arm strength. Middle relief at $8mil a year await any lefty with a pulse for crying out loud…

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