Saturday, June 21, 2014

My Home Runs!

As a Little League'r, I once hit an "in the park Home Run".  The 4 bagger was the result of speed and a weak unassuming right fielder who wasn't paying attention as I hit a line drive directly over first base that kept bouncing down the foul line in fair territory!  I sped around the bases hoping to stretch the hit into a triple, yet was surprised that my coach was sending me home!  I was safe - there wasn't even a throw to the plate! I never really thought that the hit was a real home run.  I did, however, in my short youthful baseball career have two legitimate home runs: one as an older Little League'r and the other as a High School'r.

Etched in my memory was the fact that as a 12 yr old, I faced the best pitcher in the league at our season's opening game.  He had a reputation of throwing a great curve ball, yet his fastball although fast was flat - it did not rise.  His first pitch fooled me coming in high and outside, I thought it would stay out of the strike zone, however, it dipped right over the plate for a strike.  With an 0-1 count, I saw the next pitch in my strongest hitting zone: just below the hips right over the plate.  I initiated an easy swing seeing the ball clearly connecting squarely with it.  The ball sailed straight away over the cones (in lieu of a fence) at least 50 feet for a home run!  I did not swing hard, as a matter of fact my coach reiterated, "I bet you didn't even swing hard! You don't have to 'swing for fences' to clear the fence!"

I trotted around the bases hoping that this hit would be a good omen for the whole season.  At that moment, there was a great expectation that I would be a home run hitter that season. It was an expectation that never materialized: I was a consistent hitter for average and I made the all-star team but I never hit another home run that season.

The other home run came in High School.  I came up to bat (I don't recall the team we were playing) and dug my cleats into the batter's box and took the first pitch for a called strike from a right hander. The pitch was a fastball right over the plate.  Hoping to over power me, the pitcher hurled another fastball in the same vicinity and I jumped on the pitch aggressively, hitting the ball solidly to where I initially thought was directly at the right fielder.  When I saw that he turned and started to run, I knew I had an extra base hit!  As it turned out, I truly connected with the ball and it carried very far.  In those days my school had no fence - the outfield seemed to sprawl in all directions with out end except in right field where I hit the ball.  There was a fence in right field that separated the athletic field from the street.  Just before the fence was a line of trees and something that resembled a 'warning' track.  I hit the ball at the edge of the grass by this 'warning' track and with two bounces it was in the tree area. The ball was not lost, but rather easily retrieved, however, by that time I had cleared running the bases. When the cut off man had the ball I was already practically home.

I was mobbed at the plate because I was the first left hander to send the ball sailing so far over the right fielder's head.  Oddly enough, I can not say that I swung my bat to hit a home run.  I was excited to receive a pitch thrown at my strength so I turned on it hitting it solidly on the fat part of the bat which was a signature 'Jackie Robinson' that had a characteristic thick handle, not known as a home run bat!

There is a strange sensation when one hits the ball squarely, solidly.  One hardly feels the ball leave the bat, but it shoots through the air.

Had we had a fence I would have been able to savor the hit by going into a home run trot.  Not knowing,however, how good the right fielder was, I did not take any chances and sprinted around the bases.

Subsequently I paced off the distance of the fence at about 390 feet which meant that my hit traveled approximately 360 feet.  It was a legitimate home run to most right fields.

Hitting a home run that sails off a bat easily is likened to the clarity of understanding a Torah thought - at its simplicity and depth one can marvel.

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