Today a little advice for all you young guys on how to pick up girls. Trust me, I’m an old hand at it.
Back when I was in youth baseball I hit all of two home runs ever (this is germane eventually). One was a standard turn on the pitch, drive it hard, and rope it right down the right field line (I hit left-handed) and watch it go over the fence. As the first I’d ever hit, I hadn’t perfected a home run trot, so I just kind of ran around the bases and came home. But when I was 13 I hit my second homer.
With a decent knowledge of the strike zone and some speed, I was our team’s leadoff hitter. Of course I had no power, but over the years learned to bunt. I didn’t do the standard bunt all that well. I could get it down, but sometimes it rolled a couple of feet and the catcher could gun me out. Occasionally, I’d bunt it directly to the third baseman and he’d do the same as the catcher. But I did do a terrific drag bunt. Now the purpose of a drag bunt is to get on base by rolling the ball into the triangle between the pitcher, the first baseman, and the second baseman. If you do it just right, you can get to first before one of them can field it and another can cover first.
My coach knew I could lay down a drag bunt, so before this particular game he told me to try it in my first at bat. I laid down a beauty. It rolled just far enough away from the first baseman that he couldn’t get it and had to retreat quickly to first. The pitcher saw he couldn’t get it and froze. The second baseman came dashing in for the ball. I could see him from the corner of my eye and saw he’d try to grab it with his bare hand and flip it to first without being able to stand. Our assistant coach was in the first base box and, seeing that the second baseman was going to let it fly was already motioning me toward second.
Well, the kid threw a Star Trek ball. The ball “boldly went where no ball has gone before.” Remember how big Mark McGwire was? No way he was going to reach this ball, let alone some little 13-year-old kid. So I was off to second. Most of the way there I was able to pick up the head coach who was in the third base box. He was motioning for me to come on to third. So I rounded second and headed for third.
Most teams at that age have at least one kid who has no business being on a diamond, but he likes the game and so there he is. You gotta play him, so most coaches stick him in right field where, theoretically, he can do the least damage. Well, that was true of the team we were playing. They had this skinny kid who was all arms and legs (and little head) in right. He managed to get to the overthrow finally and heaved it toward the infield. At least it was supposed to go to the infield. It sailed off into left-center and the coach sent me on home. I saw the on deck hitter holding up his arms telling me not to slide, so I scored standing up and we were ahead 1-0. I found out later that the official scorer (we were a big enough town to have one) gave me a single and two errors.
As I said, I was 13 and was just beginning to pick up on girls. Linda lived across the street. She was also 13 and just beginning to blossom. She ended up the head cheerleader in both junior high and high school back when athleticism had nothing to do with becoming a cheerleader. Back then the head cheerleader and all the other cheerleaders for that matter were determined by the shape of their legs, the size of their racks, and the shape of their face. So that should tell why I was smitten with Linda.
I was outside the next day when I saw her. She waved and I wandered across the street to see her. It was a typical West Texas street, black top with a concrete sidewalk on either side and something approximating grass trying to grow on the hot, dry lawns. Both our places had a front porch that was just a concrete slab with an overhang. The porch ran across the middle third of the house front, giving access to the front door and a large picture window.
“I saw you had your uniform on last night,” she told me.
I nodded. I was a bit tongue-tied. I mean this was a girl and a pretty one too.
“Did you win?”
I nodded again. I was trying desperately to figure out something intelligent to say.
“How did you do?”
So I finally worked up the courage and told her. I told her about my home run the night before. I told her how I’d made great solid contact, how the ball had sailed majestically up in the air, almost achieving orbit, then settled down beyond the center field fence two fields away. I did have enough sense to not claim I’d called my shot.
“Oh, that’s so wonderful,” she told me. “And so are you.”