Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Simpler Times...

Simpler Times…

Don’t we all wish times were simpler? In the hustle and bustle and buzz of life, we some times miss the simple things in life that make “life” worth living.

Iowa. A hot summer afternoon like one would see in a movie. An empty ball field with a summer wind blowing in from third base, a wind just strong enough to pick up the dry top soil and gently dust the pitcher’s mound and first base. Partly cloudy, but still plenty of blue sky to let you know it was summer.

Let’s back up a few steps…

I am in Iowa. And I am stuck here for four days. I thought nothing could be worse. Stuck in some one horse town in the middle of Iowa. I think I saw three cars, two possums and a John Deer when driving from the airport to my hotel.

James, the other pilot on the trip with me, loves baseball movies, For Love of the Game, The Natural and of course Field of Dreams. As luck would have it, Field of Dreams was filmed right here in Iowa, about 30 minutes from where we were staying. With nothing else to do, we cruised out there to check it out.

It was very cool. They charge absolutely nothing to visit. No entry fees, no make you feel guilty “donations appreciated” signs, NOTHING. And they let you run around the actual field and play ball on it. You can run through the corn field which marks the homerun boundary. All for free. Of course one dumb person and his lawyer ruin the full fun for everyone. The owners of the property used to provide free bats, balls and gloves people could borrow and take onto the field. Now, one must bring his own equipment.

Fortunately, we were able to throw ourselves on the kindness of a family that was prepared and brought a bat, ball and glove. They patiently waited while James and I threw some sloppy pitches to each other. It was fun. Of course, you know how easily influenced I am. Fortunately, James is easily influenced as well, so off we went to go buy some gloves and baseballs so we could play catch. (Hey don’t mock us, we are stuck in a one horse town whose big attraction is the National Cattle Congress.)

Now, how difficult do you think it is to find a baseball mitt in a small Iowa town? Well, it is tough in Waterloo. We hit Walmart, Target, Toys’R’us, Sears and even a pawn shop to no avail. After an hour of driving back and forth, we finally found a sporting goods store in their local “mall” called Scheeles that had some baseball gear. Does anyone know what a new baseball glove costs these days? Wow! They ranged from $49.99 to $219.99 for adult gloves. And don’t even get me started on the prices of bats.

In desperation, I am looking through the pee-wee size gloves hoping to find something in my price range. Finally, I pull out an adult sized glove that was marked $29.99. It fit my hand, it fit my wallet. As I grab a ball and start slapping the ball into the mitt to make sure this baby is the right one for me (like I really had a choice $$), the sales clerk kindly notifies me that the glove I am proudly claiming as “the one for me” is a junior size. I look at this seventeen year old summer staff sales clerk indignantly, like yeah, duh, I know that. I make the fake-you-out move to put the glove back on the rack, and then once he turns around, I grab the glove and claim it as mine once again. $29.99 baby, that’s all I need. James goes a little higher class than I and springs for the $49.99 glove, still well under the average price for the “good” gloves.

We pick out three baseballs. Again, we find the cheapest ones that still allow us to retain some dignity.

Now we are about to leave and James poses the question, “Do we want a bat?” Well, that is question of the day. We are dropping some unplanned spending on an impulse that we got from visiting a “free” attraction. How badly do we want to put ourselves? I look at him, looking for some sign of whether he really wants one or not. He looks at me, questioning whether I want one or not. “Well, we can look,” I respond.

And so we look. Hmmmm. $329.99, $289.99, $119.99, do bats really cost this much? Finally we find some $29.99 wooden Louisville Slugger bats. No grips, no frills, just a plain ol’ wooden bat. Arg. Another 30 bucks really raises the commitment level to our whimsy. Now we are in for $100 between the two of us. It is getting pretty steep.

Again, long live the pee-wee leagues. We find a Little League aluminum bat for $19.99. A little short for two grown men, but it will work. Okay, so it is purple, but we can deal with it. Wait, we find one with red flames…perfect…$20 and not gay. Done!

Recap –
Visit “free” attraction.
Sudden uncontrollable desire to play catch.
Driving around for an hour to find the gear.
Find the gear, very expensive.
Find the cheap gear, buy it and sneak out of store making comments like “my son will really like these.”

Now all we have to do is find somewhere to play.

Let’s return to the first paragraphs.

Don’t we all wish times were simpler? In the hustle and bustle and buzz of life, we some times miss the simple things in life that make “life” worth living.

Iowa. A hot summer afternoon like one would see in a movie. An empty ball field with a summer wind blowing in from third base, a wind just strong enough to pick up the dry top soil and gently dust the pitcher’s mound and first base. Partly cloudy, but still plenty of blue sky to let you know it was summer.

James and I pull up in the rental car. We are both a little giddy inside, although neither of us would admit. It has been ages since I have played catch. Of course, I am already thinking, “I am almost 30…how bad is my shoulder going to hurt tomorrow?”

Like all diligent ball players, we warm up by tossing the ball back and forth. Loosen up, stretch out, you know drill. We don’t want to go directly into pitching and hitting, we could pull something.

James volunteers to pitch first, so I grab the shiny new bat and take the plate. Crack, the ring of the ball against the bat. Magical really. Here we are living any boy’s summer dream.

After a couple a dozen pitches, we trade positions and carry on.

About 15 minutes later, a local kid shows up and stands in the dugout.

“Can I play?” “Sure.” And he jogs out into left field.

Five minutes later, another kid shows up.

“Can I play?” “Sure.” And he jogs out into center field.

Within a half hour, we have four local teenagers, two out-of-towners, a bat, some baseballs, gloves, and a GAME!

Three on three. One outfielder, a short-stop and a first basemen. Pitch to your own team. Two out innings with a five run limit. Five innings or when mom calls.

I am not sure if it was out of respect for us as out-of-towners, old guys, or that we were there first, but James and I were selected as Captains and the picking of teams began.

I got Brian and Garrett. James got Tyler and Ty. My teams bats first.

Wild pitches, long fly balls to a single outfielder, in-the-park homers, double plays, grass stains, sweat, strike outs, runs, high fives, low fives, line drives, foul balls hitting cars parked too close…baseball in the summer!

An hour and half later, my team wins 16 to 9. A hard fought battle not soon forgotten by some...especially the two out-of-towners who will surely feel in the morning.

Some times life gets you wrapped around the head. When it does, go to a simpler time, go find your baseball and glove.

4 comments:

~Chris said...

You are my hero!

Danny and Tonita said...

Great story! You and Danny should throw the ball around when you get back...he needs to practice for his team. :)

Jim & Jolene said...

You need to forward this story to the local Iowa newspaper in the town you are in. You know they will print it.
It's fun to get a glimps into your travels!
Hope to see you soon...bring your 50% interest in the flame bat when you come up next!

Joy said...

Wow I love the way you wrote that! Cracked me up and gave me goosebumps. Very awesome!