Sometime in 1985, in some backyard of some small ranch home in Vernon Hills, Illinois, some small kid, surrounded by some five to six adults, went through the American ritual of his first batting practice.
The bat was wooden. This I can remember. I believe it to be a souvenir of the local hardware store’s ‘Bat Sale’, as such things did occur in 1980’s pre-bloc store America.
The bat was heavy. This was indicative of my dragging the behemoth carcass of ash before being able to lift it to the point of contact.
The ritual would be attended. It would feature the closest members of our family. The ceremony would be solidified by the presence of a camera, a cheering section, and my uncle giving play-by-play.
Uncle Fred was pitching underhand. My dad was in the outfield. My mom and aunt were cheering on the side.
I think I saw about 20 pitches. The fence behind our house was only 15 feet from where I was standing, but the wooden fence dividing the properties stood seven feet tall; a veritable green monster for a kid of my age.
The swings were labored; mostly misses. “Keep your eye on the ball.” “Watch the bat make contact with the ball.” “Meet the bat with the ball.”
The contact was small, but when there was contact the celebrations were high pitched.
It was trying. I tried. The results were not impressive…until…right around pitch 20, the lowly swung bat met the lowly pitched ball, and the ball sailed over the newly installed fence. Fireworks.
I was picked up by my mom and we did a ceremonial trip around the bases.
When I reached home, our small gathering cheered.
16 swings and misses. Three foul balls. One home run.
The baptism was a success. I had been inducted into Americana. There would be cheeseburgers for dinner.
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