I once wrote the introduction for a baseball publication, using the iconic ball itself to help carry the load. I chose to begin talking about it by describing the different ways in which it’s typically thrown by the different position players:

Pick it up. With your eyes closed, on the darkest night, you know what it is. Grip it in your fingers. Feel the seams. Throw it your way. Catchers snap from the ear. Second basemen flip sidearm. The big motion is for pitchers. Outfielders take their crow-hop and come straight over the top.


This weekend we went to a picnic where I had a catch for the first time in over 10 years. I was embarrassed and dismayed to discover that I can no longer snap it, flip it, or toss it in any way whatsoever. I might as well have been French.

I was a boy who understood that baseball was a key to life. I bought, borrowed, and pilfered baseballs as needed. (I was once handed a brand new official American League ball by an umpire friend of my grandfather, as the three of us walked through right field on the way to the parking lot after a men’s game, thereby receiving stolen goods from the ultimate American authority figure.) I tossed and caught with friends and family all summer, and when no one was around, I threw tennis balls or spaldeens against the house (my mother loved the game, too), or the garage, or off the basketball backboard. When the weather was too wet or cold, I fired the old pill into pillows, suspended blankets, or upended mattresses. Throwing was like breathing, but more urgent.

Yesterday’s sad display was an utter shock. So here’s the deal. I don’t think they make spaldeens, those pink rubber balls once produced by the Spalding company, anymore, but I’ve got a tube of tennis balls upstairs (I use them after I wash my sleeping bag, to break up clumps of down in the dryer). I’m going to take one over to the school every morning after my run, tape an X on one of the blank brick walls, and throw against it for ten minutes. If I’m not snapping, flipping, and tossing like an American boy again in a week, I’ll take up pétanque.


Disarmed — 1 Comment

  1. Good luck!

    I was walking past a playground last year and decided to do a chin up on the trapeze bar. I was shocked to discover I could not lift myself off the ground! Could Not Lift Myself!!!

    Some goes for push ups!

    What happened. Why is gravity suddenly so much stronger than it was when we were kids?

    Good on you to decide to get out there and get it back!

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