DOUBLES

They are called Two-baggers. It’s an extra base hit. You get to to run full throttle for one hundred and eighty feet.

I hit three great doubles in my life.

Double #1 (1984): I played on my first tournament team following my third year of little league. On several of the tournament teams I played on, I often was the youngest player on the team – my birthday being later in the year. The first time around I was especially young, as the local elders dipped into the junior division and made me the only player to play with the older kids.

I was 9.

These tournaments were/are double elimination. We lost the first game – badly. I didn’t play, mostly because I was 9. But once our best pitcher lost that first game, all hope was lost. The coach put his son on the mound to pitch the second game.

And he put a 9 year old in the outfield.

My first at bat against a kid nearly two years older than me I took deep – and by deep, like what, 150 feet, into the outfield for a double. It was a hit that eerily paralleled a ball hit 32 years later and chronicled in #3. We lost that game too, our team barely got any hits and, after the game, the coach blasted his son quite openly for playing so poorly, and for letting a nine year old hit better than him.

I wasn’t exactly proud to be the subject on his ‘Bad News Bears’ bad parent coach tirade, but it was nice to be acknowledged.

Double #2 (May 1992): It would turn out to be my last at bat in high school. I didn’t know that at the time. The game was tied 1-1 and I was the first batter up in the top of the sixth. And it was an elimination playoff game.

I can still hear the JV coach bellowing words of support from his spot as the first base coach. Tough as nails – always my biggest supporter. The opposing team’s best pitcher was throwing darts and my only option was to swing at whatever came close and hope to make contact. The pitch came in fast and was going to hit the outside corner for a low strike.

I stepped in and leaned my body to the right, using my bat as a swatter and taking the ball for a looping drive down the right field line. There seemed to be a flash from the moment I made contact to when my foot touched the bag at first. The JV coach was still bellowing, already telling me to slide into second when I had barely left first.

I slid. I was safe.

A batter later, a single to left field immediately signified to me that there would be a close play at the plate and I was about to become greatly responsible for the outcome of this game. The question was, would the Varsity coach standing at third base send me home… I had already been thrown out stealing second earlier in the game – the first (and only) time in my life.

When the Varsity coach would send you home to score a run, he would often, very calmly (which wasn’t his thing), say ‘touch the bag and go’. And you went. This time he was excited, using expletives, and not in his usual ‘don’t F this up’ tone. He was looking to win this game right now! Even though the game wouldn’t be over if I scored.

The catcher was in position and my mind had a split second to contemplate a head first side or (holy god) knocking into him if the throw beat me to the plate. Before the thought left me, my feet were out in front of me to slide. Another second later and I was climbing the cyclone fence behind the backstop. I had scored the go ahead run and was displaying the most passion my quiet reserved ball playing self had ever done in eleven years.

An inning later, a ball was lost in the outfield and we lost the game 3-2. But that one double, and that one run, are both still fresh in my brain as if they just happened this morning.

Double #3 (January 2015): 40 years old and two days of bad batting practice led to a long dormant internal struggle – fun vs. fear of failure. I chose fun. The first pitch I swung at – a double.

Felt like old times.

This is a picture that has been recently shared on the blog in relation to a different moment in my youth, but this is the actual double. For all the time I spent playing ball, there are not many pictures, and no video. There’s actually one great picture of me at age 16 looking ticked beyond all recognition because I wasn’t starting a tournament game. The picture above (it’s a screenshot of a video actually) marks a change. The first time having fun playing baseball in 23 years.

And probably the first time since I hit Double #2 – which was a fleeting moment amidst a sea of ones not so fun.

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