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Trying to keep up in a young mans game


Somebody has to be the oldest guy on the field, why shouldnt it be me?

Last Saturday I went down to Pimentel Field to cover the Crook County High School alumni baseball game.

My wife has told me for years that maybe I’m too old for this sort of thing, and I should start to act my age. Nevertheless, on a whim, I took my softball glove (I don’t own a baseball glove) just in case they were short of players.

Of course, they were short of players and next thing you know I’m drafted to play first base.by: PHOTO COURTESY OF CULLY STAFFORD - The author drives a ball to left field. You will have to take my word for it, the ball is already gone.

Those who know me from high school may recall that I ran track rather than play baseball.

I did go out for baseball one year in college, but failed to make the team. So Saturday’s game was the first real baseball action that I had seen since sometime around fifth grade.

I?have played some slow pitch softball, but that hardly qualifies as preparation for a baseball game. Hitting a large sphere that is floating gently to the ground is hardly comparable to trying to hit a baseball (a skill often described as one of the most difficult sports skills to master). Besides, I gave softball up sometime around 20 years ago.

To prepare for the game, I took my turn in the batting cages where I managed to hit several foul balls, but never hit anything that would have even remotely been in the field of play.

More accurately, I barely ticked the ball with the bat as most of the balls continued behind me even after contact. To be truthful, the ball looked more like a marble as it whizzed towards me than a baseball.

Warm-ups were OK, although I struggled to catch some of the balls the other infielders threw to me. But then the game started.

The first batter up slashed a hard line drive down the right field line, which I calmly fielded on one hop and raced to tag first before the batter could get down the line.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, although the truth is more like a slow trickling ground ball came to first, which should have been routine. I managed to make it into a close play by my hesitant fielding and sluggish run to first.

In my first at bat I managed to put the ball in play, a slow roller towards the shortstop that actually advanced a pair of runners. However, I failed to beat the throw to first.

By the third inning the game was quickly becoming a blur. I picked up my second fielding error of the game as I tried to catch a routine throw with the heel of my glove instead of the webbing. Then I failed to cover the bag on what should have been an easy out. The mistakes eventually helped the other team score three runs in the inning.

However, rather than being upset with my play, my teammates took credit for my mistakes, saying their throws were off line.

In the bottom of the third inning came the highlight of my baseball career, such as it is. I actually got a hit. To be precise a soft line drive just over the outstretched reach of the third baseman.

If my calculations are correct, it is my first real hit in a baseball game since 1967.

Bolstered by my newfound confidence, I swung wildly in my next at bat, quickly striking out.

In my final at bat I fouled off a ball so close to my hands that the umpire asked if I had hit myself. Then on the next pitch I fouled a ball into my shin. The resulting bruise has become more and more colorful as the week has progressed. I proceeded to strike out on a ball that was so wild that it went all the way to the back stop and I managed to reach first on the ensuing play. I made it all the way to third in the inning. If I weren’t so slow I would have scored. Then again, they did offer me a pinch runner twice in the inning.

By the time the five-inning game was over, I had a bruised finger from mishandling a ball at first, a bruise on each ankle (the second one was from trying to catch a ball with my leg instead of my glove) and a bruise on one elbow. I have no idea what I hit with my elbow, but whatever it was it probably has a dent in it. My elbow does.

From the players that I saw on Sunday, I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one with battle wounds. However, I’m pretty sure that I’m the one that is old enough to know better.

So, the next time there is an opportunity to play horseshoes or shuffleboard, count me in. But when it comes to baseball perhaps I should act my age and sit in a lawn chair on the sideline sipping a Mountain Dew.

Still, someone has to be the oldest player on the field. Why shouldn’t it be me?

Lon Austin is the sports reporter for the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..