Hey. Joe. Again.
Lydia pulled me out of a pretty decent bipolar wave to post something from my past.
I was published as a preteen, played in a rock band that flirted with a record contract, and was interviewed in front of 10,000 people about how I turned my violent life around.
But what people know me for most is baseball. When I got older, softball. And now that I'm retired for medical reasons (stupid knees), it's hitting coach.
I was always a stocky lefty, so I could always hit. I played a few little league games here and there, but nothing much structured. But I could hit.
I took a big interest in baseball and softball after watching my dad hammer ball after ball into the woods at a congregation picnic. A crowd gathered. He just kept hitting them, and they just kept rocketing into the trees. Sometimes you'd hear them pinballing around in there, ricocheting off branches and giving squirrels heart attacks.
The best thing? He didn't even care. Dad grew up in the projects on the East Side (of Cleveland), and was good at basketball. Softball? Myeh. He could take it or leave it.
Dad was huge, true, but this was beyond just strength. When he died a few years later (Bipolar and incorrect meds took him at 31 years old), I had already gotten my start. I believe I went through over a dozen wooden bats that year, then split an aluminum little league bat.
I played in a rec softball league at the age of 14, and hit my first homerun on the adult field at sixteen.
A couple years later, I got into Vintage Base Ball (originally two words). I would drive the two hours from Cleveland suburb to Columbus every weekend for home games of the team run by the Ohio Historical Society. I'd drive farther for away games.
We have a video of me playing in Jackson, OH, and launching a ball. L-A-U-N-C-H-I-N-G. There is a chorus of, "whoa's" clearly audible on the tape. Later that year, I put a handmade vintage ball over the 370' sign at a college baseball stadium. There was actually a line of little kids asking for my autograph after the game. Very cool.
The next year I started dating Lydia, and though her mom didn't like me, she still cheered when I yacked 3 bombs against the town hall of the little city we were putting on an exhibition against. In a graveyard.
I've played for about a dozen different softball teams through the years, as well. I don't like the drinking and jawing at those games, not to mention those diminishing skills of mine. I retired in '09, and my last at bat was a 3-run backside walk off bomb (homerun that went far to opposite field and ended the game). I packed up my stuff, left the field, and have not set foot on one again, except to teach others how to hit.
Everyone thinks they could have made it. I don't care that I never tried. I have Lydia and Little Joe (our six-year old), and that's all that matters.
Incidentally, I have taken a bucket of rock-hard balls and one of the best bats on the market to that park my dad hit on, and cannot even come within ten feet of those trees he was assaulting with cork balls and a garage sale bat.
And no, I don't bowl.