Zach Piatt is a sophomore journalism major and writes “Dugout Chatter” for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
May 25, 2017. It was game day.
Chilly, slight breeze, spitting rain – otherwise horrid baseball conditions. But nonetheless, it was game day.
Not your typical, every other game day, though. It was sectionals. Win and advance, or lose and go home.
Bottom of the seventh, down by one, two outs, bases loaded and I’m on third base. The hit was a pop up — one of those in-between balls that would be tough for anyone to get. As I crossed home plate, I did double, triple, even quadruple takes between the ball and the runner behind me. The second baseman and right fielder collided, the runner behind me touched home and for the shortest of moments we had won the game.
You know that feeling of joy, sadness and confusion all at once? That’s what I felt in that moment when I heard the roar of excitement from the opposing dugout and realized what had actually happened.
He caught it. My teammate was out. The game was over. We lost, and we were going home.
In the movie “A League of Their Own,” Tom Hanks said, “There’s no crying in baseball.” I agreed with the line wholeheartedly all throughout my 10-year baseball career. I was never the one you saw crying after the game that ended the season, but this was my one exception.
I was a senior. I was heading to college. My days on the ball diamond were up. No more shaking hands with teammates and saying, “It’s game day.” No more asking coach, “You know what we get to do today?” No more hearing, “We get to play baseball,” in response. Because there were no more game days to look forward to.
Baseball changed me. That moment reminded me of how I fell in love with the game in the first place.
I never stepped outside my comfort zone as a child. My mom said the process of getting me on the bus for my first day of kindergarten was “exhausting.” I was kicking, screaming, holding a death grip on her — anything to stay off that bus. She described it as trying to put a cat in water.
In other words, I didn’t want to leave my mom and try this new thing called school.
Two years later, once I worked up the courage to try to make friends, I met Logan. I don’t talk to Logan anymore, I haven’t in years actually, but I have him to thank for asking me a question that would change my life forever.
He asked if I wanted to play baseball with him.
My initial response was an insecure no. Then, he told me he wasn’t going to play if I didn’t play with him. As you can imagine, this put me in quite the predicament, but against my 9-year-old insecurities, I decided to try it out.
That was the best decision I ever made. I loved every second of it. The coaches were friendly, the competition was just right and the game was fun.
I wore blue jeans to every game because I didn’t have baseball pants. After a while, my coaches started calling me “Denim Dragster” because of my speed. I won the award for having the most hustle my first two years playing. Logan had to miss a few games later in the summer, but I was having so much fun I didn’t care.
I went from a shy kid who got separation anxiety to an outgoing, competitive baseball lover who could become friends with just about anybody. Baseball introduced me to my true personality, and that’s why game day has always meant so much more to me.
I played one semester of club ball in college, but it wasn’t the same. We practiced twice a week with games on the weekend, and nobody seemed to take it seriously. Every other team I had ever played for was a brotherhood, and club ball didn’t feel this way. To this day, I don’t have a close friend from back home that I didn’t meet through baseball.
David Price said it best after winning Game 5 of the 2018 World Series for the Boston Red Sox. Holding back tears, he said, “It’s the relationships you make while you do this, while you play this game … that’s what makes this game so special.”
It’s tough knowing something that held such a prominent place in your life for so long is just gone. It felt weird not playing the summer after my senior year of high school. It still feels weird not playing a year and a half later. It sucks, but I force myself to be around the game. I watch Cubs games whenever I can, and I have a summer job teaching little kids how to play t-ball.
I often revisit how I came across the beautiful sport of baseball. Logan may never see this, I may never speak to him again, but he introduced me to a game I have an unbreakable bond with.
I love the game. I loved waking up with a smile on my face knowing I was going to play baseball that day. I loved watching myself button up my jersey in the mirror as the last thing I had to do before heading out to the field. I loved tossing grass in the air to check the wind. I loved digging in and giving the plate a one-two tap and twirl. I loved the pure joy I felt while on the field. I love the game.
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