No matter how many years go by since the last time I swung a baseball bat, every spring once all the snow has melted and the grass begins to grow, I get an itch that I think most people who grew up on the diamond probably experience. By this point, clips of your favorite MLB stars casually taking part in Spring Training exhibitions have circulated all over the internet and you begin to wonder how your team is going to shape up for this year’s campaign. You begin to prepare yourself for the roller coaster of emotions that come with a 162 game season, and wonder what the chances are that your team will make a run into October, extending the joy or perhaps simply prolonging the heartbreak. And then, if you experience the same feelings I do, you immediately want to get outside and take some BP, toss the ball around, or anything to help satisfy your craving for baseball.
Truth be told, I haven’t swung a baseball bat since 2009 when I finally hung up my cleats after my freshman year of High School, and that feels like a lifetime ago already. Occasionally throughout college, my roommate and I would run outside and toss the ball around when we got that itch that all former baseball players do, but looking back on it, I am sure we both wish we had played more when we had the time. I can remember that our baseball experiences came up as a topic of discussion almost every week, no matter what was going on in our lives. We’d talk about legendary moments, the people we met along the way, and of course, the equipment that helped to bring us so many memories.
Throughout my entire baseball journey, there was only one position that I felt comfortable in; I had to be a catcher. I took pride in being a reliable backstop, and I tried my very best to embody the play of my favorite baseball player, Jorge Posada. I studied his batting stance, his tendencies, his attitude, and of course, what equipment he used. Even though it was not allowed in little league, I so badly wanted to wear the classic catcher’s mask/ helmet combination that Jorge used, just so I could whip that thing off whenever a ball was put into play like he did.
I can remember how overjoyed I was when I got my first catcher’s mitt- a black and tan Rawling’s Jorge Posada model with his signature stamped right on the palm. I can only imagine the amount of baseballs I caught with that thing, especially because I extended its lifespan numerous times by getting it fixed at a local shoe repair shop. From the first moment I got it, rubbed it with oil, and set it in the oven to break it in to bringing it to Yankee stadium with the hope of maybe catching a foul ball, that glove contained all of my most cherished baseball memories.
And then there were my bats. Growing up, I remember having three bats- one green Easton Cyclone for little league that was reminiscent of the hulk, one uneventful grey Easton typhoon, and of course, my DeMarini Vexxum that I considered the Lamborghini of all baseball bats. Hybrid metal baseball bats became popular during my transition from little league to the standard sized fields of junior league and naturally, I envied all of my friends who had them. I am almost positive that at the start of every season, I made some pitch to my parents about how I wanted a new bat for this or that reason, only to know that I probably didn’t need one. But, somehow I got the parents to give in every couple of years and I eventually must have presented a good enough argument to land that DeMarini. Now I wish I could sit here and write about how many memories that bat brought me, but unfortunately, I was never much of a hitter. The bat never brought me home runs, or even got me on the varsity team, but it was a significant part of my baseball experience that I will always cherish.
Baseball is fundamental in most of the lessons I learned growing up. From showing grace in both victory and defeat, to developing an unrelenting work ethic in all that you do, baseball was always the tool my father used to help teach me life lessons, and it is how I have developed into the man I am today. There is nothing more that I want than to go back in time and toss the ball around with dad when he got home from work while he tells me to not be afraid of the ball. Though simple, those memories are the ones that mean the most to me now.
Recently you may have read that the same Lamborghini of a bat that I used growing up met it's end at the hands of Casey's son. Read GOING FULL CIRCLE. I cannot think of a more perfect conclusion to this bat’s final chapter, building priceless memories between a father and a son while developing a young man’s skills in the game we all love. I hope that at the end of the day, what meant more was not the number of hits, home runs, or walk-offs this bat contributed to, but rather the time spent together and the memories forged around baseball.
To Casey and his son, I sincerely hope that this bat brought both of you wonderful memories, and that whatever bat you choose next brings you even more luck and opportunities to grow together. Hold onto these times tight, and enjoy every practice, inning, and game along your baseball journey.
It is one hell of a ride.