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Greatest Personal Sports Moments: Part 1

I rarely played organized sports.  For lack of a better reason, let's just say I was a bit of a dick in high school.  I hated authority and I always felt like playing was caving in to the man. My high school in the city had a basketball team, but I was 5'9" and white and 13 in 9th grade and the average freshman in that school was 15 and about 6 feet and usually a little more culturally geared towards playing ball.  That's the PC way of saying they were black.  I was always good at basketball and held my own in gym, but was too young to play varsity.  So my entire high school sports career consisted of about three weeks of football practice before quitting due to a freak injury in gym class and two JV games, one of which I got benched for throwing a ball at the head of one of my teammates.

So what could I possibly have as a highlight with such a brief "career?"  Well a few years after high school I was attending Westchester Community College and saw a flier for a baseball tryout.  I figured this would be fun.  I had coached little league and during a seminar with the local baseball coach, the coach asked me to take a swing at a ball on a tee.  I was about 21 at the time.  He said he wanted everyone to watch and he'd break down the mistakes. I walked up, took one swing and drove the ball across the gym.  The ball sailed high and smacked into the wall with a loud thud.  He asked me to swing again. Same result.  A third time and he said to hold on.  In front of the entire class, he said "you're an ass. I coached a lot of great players, some of who even got drafted by major league baseball and top colleges and that's probably the best swing I've seen.  Not one error I can point out.  We'll talk later about you not playing for me."

I don't remember how old I was when I tried out, but I know I was mid 20's.  The coach came out and there was a buzz surrounding the returning team.  Apparently, they had lost the junior college world series and were returning all but two players.  So there we sat.  Sixty players, many all-county high schoolers and me and one other guy from Eastchester.  Long story short, we were the two that made it.  During the fielding we dominated.  During the throwing neither of us we're the best, but we were accurate.  During the hitting, I was crushing the ball, but it was being thrown about 60 mph.  My fellow Eastchesterian was roping line drives into the outfield with surgeon like precision.  So then came the scrimmage. I was sent into right field.  In the first inning the leadoff guy came to the plate and I was warned by the CF (a returning player) that he had serious wheels.  He was a right so I shaded him towards center.  Big mistake.  He blooped a single right down the line.  I was able to run it down and get the ball in before he could stretch into a double.  The next guy bunted and sacrificed him to second. The coach yelled at the batter and said "why didn't you do that in the world series?"  Everyone laughed.  The next batter was number three.  I saw the center fielder back up.  He said, move back, he's a monster.  I backed up, but only slightly.  Knowing a ball in front would definitely score the run.  The first pitch he hits a ball a mile high and slightly in from where I was.  I knew the runner was going to be off.  I caught the ball about 275 feet from home plate, had my momentum turned towards third base and as I caught it I quickly threw as hard as I could.  The ball was a seed, taking one hop and landing in the third baseman's glove.  The runner stood up and dusted himself off and called time out.  The coach, laughed and said "yeah right, have a seat."  He tried to convince his coach he was safe, but I nailed him.  I was feeling good about myself, but this was just the beginning.

My first at bat I walked on four pitches and then almost got picked off first.  It was embarrassing.  The second at bat, I was the leadoff batter and the coach said "last at-bat, make it count."  The pitcher, whose name escapes me was later drafted by the Kansas City Royals and while never making it to the pros, I did hear he made it to Triple-A.  He was a huge lanky left and had an incredible curveball.  I knew I couldn't hit it.  First pitch, big curve which I swung and missed by about three feet.  Frustration set in.  I knew it was coming.  Second pitch, he throws another.  I swung around my eyes and the ball bounced on the plate.  He was laughing. I was livid.  I step into the box and I knew I couldn't hit it.  The fielders all but sat down.  I called time and walked out.  I tapped my cleats and walked a few steps towards the mound.  I stared at the pitcher and yelled "hey pussy, you know you can't throw anything by me, so keep throwing that candy ass shit.  Show some balls and throw the heat."  I stepped back in the box and the catcher goes "you have no idea what you just did.  Here it comes." My first thought was he was throwing right at my head.  I figured it would hurt but I'd be on base.  I got set.  He wound up and let go of what I was later told was mid 90's heat.  Right on the outside of the plate.  I own the outside of the plate.  I swung and caught it flush and drove it into right field. The ball rose and I knew it was close to going over the fence, but this was a tryout.  I took off as fast as I could and rounded first base just as the ball crashed against a sign hanging in the gap that read 354'. I was more than halfway to second when I saw the fielder get the ball.  Fuck it I thought.  I rounded second and headed for third.  I could see the third base coach screaming for me to slide.  I figured he'd hit the cutoff and the ball would be thrown to the inside of the bag, so I slid to the outside.  Safe by about an inch.  I got up dusted myself off an looked at the pitcher.  If memory serves me right, he told me to go fuck myself.  I was then taken out and the catcher came to me and said "we're a team here, no place for that, but I'm pretty sure, you just made the team."

About an hour later, the scrimmage was over.  The coach called me and the other guy from Eastchester.  He said congrats.  He then told us to drop all but two classes, because he didn't carry full time students on his team.  I explained, I was there for my degree.  He said "you have til noon tomorrow to figure out what you want." The next day at noon, I went to his office. Thanked him for the opportunity and explained I was there for an education.  He smiled  and said "no worries, you weren't playing this year anyway, maybe next.  Plus, you just made that moose from Pelham's day. He's gonna be here for years."  He said "you must have killed it in HS, shocked I never heard about you."  "I never played skip."  He shook his head.  "Hate kids like you." 

Silly, but one of the most rewarding sports moments of my life.


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