Monday, December 1, 2008
June 16, 1978--
"Strike one!" he barked. He was a bull-dog of a man--short, thick, jowly. He was a coach in title only, since he didn't coach us about anything but just called us "panty-wastes" and told us what positions to play--never how to play them. This was just baseball practice, but it felt like a naked spelling bee.
I thought it was only a strike if you swung and missed. Why did he keep calling strikes with me just standing there, sweating?
I was seven years old and a head taller than everyone in my class. I wasn't fat. My red, Sears Toughskin jeans were for "husky" boys, so that's what I was. But I just knew everyone was staring at me. It was bad enough that everyone always stared at me because of my size. It was worse that everyone always stared at me because I was the only boy in the whole small Texas town whose parents were divorced and whose father had moved far away. Now everyone was staring at me because I didn't have a clue how to play baseball. But I didn't have a choice.
"Strike three, you're out!"
He didn't have to sound so happy about it.
"You don't stand on the plate when you're batting, Pelfrey."
Now how the hell was I supposed to know that? And why didn't he tell me to begin with? Oh the power of shame to teach a lesson--and to crush a young spirit in one guttural bark.
My mom had taken me to Gibson's to buy a glove and bat with money held out from her four jobs. But my hippie dad had left two years before to go find himself, and my brother was too much older to mess around with his fat, er, husky kid brother.
Why weren't you supposed to stand on the plate when you're batting? What's it there for?
In my twenties I took another stab at it, actually fell in love with baseball, and developed a swing that elicited compliments from baseball-playing friends, a few coaches among them. But I taught myself, dammit. Hitting, pitching, fielding, scores and stats--all the fundamentals, I taught myself.
*I recently realized that I'm now about the same age my parents were when they divorced. There was no custody battle or harsh words. Just a father who went off to find himself, and a childhood that got lost in the process. You may or may not have a comment. But if you or your parents have gone through a divorce, please feel free to share your own feelings. If you are considering divorce, please stop and consider the long-term ramifications of this decision, especially if children are involved. Consider giving counseling a chance, or I am happy to dialog with you from my own experience as a child of divorce and a pastor (e-mail me). To be continued...
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