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Apr 2019
You know it's funny the things that leave an indelible mark on our lives! 2 times when I was 8 years old, a catastrophe landed square on me that still haunts me... almost 55 years later. Funnier still is how alone I feel in this, as I've never seen, or even heard of it happening to anyone else! Surely it must have, (punched someone in the metaphorical gut - besides me)  as this cannot be the one thing that makes me unique among human beings.  We played real baseball back then, not t-ball and because we ( my family) moved around a bit during those years; that town and field time dates itself as the  2nd or  3rd grade, so I was 8 or just turned 9 when life turned on me...twice!! With the benches filled with the enthusiastic, happy faces of cheering parents and friends, the hot lights in a perpetual battle with the cool night air of early spring, creating a foggy haze that hovered just over our heads like a gray wool blanket and added something to the crackling excitement of this rite of passage. I loved it all!  I loved it for the excitement and I loved it because it was mine ( all mine) not a hand me down shirt or pair of pants! It was the first thing in my life, that was mine!  Because I paid for It by sheer sweat and determination! Paid for with all the effort made that took me from the Siberia of the right field - that 1st year - to pitcher/ first base the next! Yes, I loved it all; and aided by an even swing and a penchant for meeting the pitch with the sweet spot of the bat, giving me status and accolades that I admit was to be loved as well! All that mutual love made the pain of... well you will see!
    I found myself on first base, by walk or a fair hit, where I'm sure I was leading off and taunting the pitcher; as were my teammates on 2nd and 3rd ( a fact guaranteed to promote to a higher level our taunts and threats of stealing a base!) Yes! but what base? What with them all occupied. Bases loaded was almost a no steal zone! So then, with the resounding crack of a good hit filling the crisp cool spring night, we all 3 began to move around the bases, pushed by the 1st base coach and aided by the one at 3rd ,who was like the traffic light in human form as he urged us to make a left turn and head for home, unless the light went to caution or red. That then was the time to obey ( without question ) the traffic laws of the ball field!  Sometimes the signal went to caution, slowing all progress as everyone waited for the ball to return from beyond the wool blanket!  At that age we had no more free will than the merry - go - round did ,or the kids aboard it did ,when suddenly hijacked and assaulted by bigger and stronger kids bent on turning  it into that momentary " hell ride " while they pushed and pulled together, creating enough momentum that you were too  scared to remain and.too scared to jump! As bad as that was back then, I would have taken it 100 times to 1 in avoiding the catastrophe and walk of shame dealt me then. , The runners, all but the one going from 1st to 2nd (me) were running toward a coach. The one at 3rd base, now with the caution light shining ,then flicking to red as he saw the ball appear from the glaring haze of lights to be an easy catch for the outfielder in question! Then, just as sudden , the red went to green and the race was back on, aided by a collision ( usually ) of those not calling out " mine"  or someone else not hearing it. From 1st to 2nd I had not been guided by a  coach, but as I was returning towards 1st. I could see him waving me in, only to start waving me off, yelling at me to go go go!!
Clear in my mind  - even now - is the scene I turned back to as I went towards second! To my left, I could see the kid round 3rd and head for home, with the traffic light behind him bouncing and swinging himself around like a happy 10 lb. dog with a 20 lb. tail! To my right I saw 2 players doing an Abbott and Costello routine as they scrambled around, bouncing off each other while trying to retrieve the ball, and there, straight in front of me I see the returning runner land back on second and stick there like a lawn dart! From the corner of my eye, I see the winner of the scramble fling the ball towards home plate, arriving just in time to not get the runner. And then...  there's me, standing 5 feet from second base; lost, confused, embarrassed, and boy am I *******!   Now ******, it's not fair! I followed the rules and obeyed the signals.
   No walk of shame is nice, no matter how much dignity one might portray, but at that age, under those hateful lights and the faces of those mean people on the bleachers, who keep staring at me... I'm sure I was crying as I walked that long walk back to the dugout!   2 times that happened to me that year. It wasn't fair, was not right, and in point of fact,  it was cruel and heartbreaking! Why else would it still permeate my life 55 years later.? Am I alone in this club and should I let it affect my memory so? IDK, because as far as I know, it's just a one-man club and no others for assimilation.
  No one else has paid the dues to join  - that I know of - but  I truly hope I am not alone here, Okay so It happened and it broke me at the time, yes it did that, but it; also prepared me for life, and armed me with the knowledge that sometimes we must endure the pain from doing " no wrong"!   That's where that dignity comes from, as we take the walk of ( undeserved ) shame, with head held high and caring not if anyone sees the gleam of tears... that may fill our eye!
Keith W Fletcher
Written by
Keith W Fletcher  Oklahoma
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