Play Ball, Now and Then

Myself, age 11, 1971 Benicia, CA

Crack goes the bat and now the yapping little dog at my feet, wants to join the white-chin elder rounding first-base, en-route for third.

Photo by Sequim Gazette. Dave Underwood heads for home during the Sequim Wolves recent two-day tournament with Victoria Canada’s Raiders. The Wolves would go on to win 3 of the 4 games, but not without a great contest. For more photos click here …

I wish I could move as well as half my team, let alone how I did 40-years ago. I’m on-deck. I should call for a pinch-runner, but I’m too proud. I divert from my frailties, and offer up a stab at humor towards the dug-out. I’m swinging to get loose–like a few back-n-forths with a bat will help.

Miming the pooch, I sing: “Put me in coach,” in my best cartoon-dog-voice. John Fogerty’s famous melody in mind. The pup’s paws poking through the chain-link at me, pleading. It looked like the little fellow had chew in his gums from all the dirt he’d been wafting up.

“You’d like that Sparky, wouldn’t you?” says the man holding the pup at bay. “Too bad we don’t have a position for you.” He’s up next, in the hole, and pats the dog on the head before pulling his batting glove up an eager wrist.

The Red Sox, Benicia CA
The Red Sox, Benicia CA, circa 1972
Frozen Blueberries seem to work just as well; and they add plenty of fodder for comedic juxtapositions.

Quicker than my sciatic nerve can shriek displeasure as I practice-swing, I say, “Oh sure we do, Sparky can always play Rover!” That gets a few laughs from the rest of the bench. I thought of saying dog-catcher at first, but too many mixed metaphors to pull off.

Someone spits. I’m up.

Senior softball. I’ve come full circle since my days as a chubby nine-year old in California, playing hardball for Benicia’s Red Sox. I’m still chubby, but my legs have a lot more miles on them now. appropriately, the team here in Washington is called, The Grey Wolves. I’m not alone in my realizations.


Frozen peas have new meaning in my life. Before, I avoided them at all costs. Now, they snug-up next to me like a frosty lover, hugging my swollen, throbbing, heaving bits. I will never love peas less.

Now, six-weeks into my routine, I don’t hurt as I did last month, and I laugh and joke a lot more. I’m loving the pop my glove makes when the ball lands just-so in the webbing. I’m enjoying the comradery of team-play and the way my body feels when synching up my cleats. Before, I looked down at my feet and could barely find them, opting typically for slip-on flips and simply flopping down for another beer. Now, I put that knee right up there near my chin, snugging-up the laces like I did when I was 9-years old–back when I had no idea that I’d ever come to appreciate, yet still hate, the need for frozen peas.