When I was a Boy of Summer

Since it’s baseball season, today’s #TBT is two pictures from my SVAA baseball team.

When I was The Divine Miss M’s age, I had this fantasy that I would grow up to be a major league ball player. I was a decent player. But the truth is that I wasn’t even good enough to make my high school team.

Baseball team 81J02
The Senior Year SVAA Team

But, in the summers after the school-season was over, everybody would play SVAA ball. As you can see from the picture, most of the guys on our team were on the RHS school team. (You can make them out with their school team hats along with their SVAA jerseys…) As you can see, I was one of the only guys on our SVAA team to not be on the school squad too. (I’m top row, far left)

But, despite the fact that I hadn’t made the school team, and despite the fact that there seems little hope of my playing ball beyond that final year in SVAA, I hadn’t fully come to terms with the loss of this childhood dream.

I still had some kind of magical-thinking going that I’d still be the next Pete Rose.
(Yes. He was my high school idol. Don’t judge me….)

6ba02-hsbaseballteam
Proudly Showing Off Our Runners Up Trophies

A part of what kept that dream alive, I suppose, was that our SVAA team was KILLER. Even during our junior year, we were mowing down opponents. We made it to the championship game, where we faced-off against a senior team whose pitcher was headed off the A&M on a baseball scholarship months later.

We lost the championship game, our junior year. But even in losing we felt confident.

Next year would be OUR year.

Sure enough, it was. We mowed down all opponents in the regular season. Creamed them. It wasn’t even close. We were supremely confident.

We were good, and we knew it. We were the Yankees of the 30s. The Reds of the 70s.

Then came the playoffs. And the unthinkable happened.

We lost in the first round to a team that wasn’t nearly as good as we were.

There’d be no return to the championship game. “Our year” wasn’t to be. Guy bowed the heads and cried in the dugout. I was as stunned as anyone.

Eric at bat 81J12 copy
Me at bat.

For reason I can’t recall, my family was away on vacation and had left me home alone that night. (Perhaps because I didn’t want to miss these games?)

As I walked in the doors of that empty house, the magical-thinking suddenly fell away into the shadows of those empty rooms.

I realized something final was about to happen.

 

 

 

I was about to take off a baseball uniform for the last time in my life.

I did. And I cried buckets of tears, alone.

A few weeks later, we had a final party with the guys at one of their houses. Lots of beer. Lot’s of talking about college. Then we all went our separate ways. A few of these guys are on Facebook now. But I don’t keep up with most of them.

So, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about Maria, and how much I yearn to keep her from anything heartbreaking. I HATE to see her sad about anything.

And, luckily, it doesn’t happen that often.

But looking back now, it’s clear that losing an early dream like that, even as improbable as it ever was, was a gift. Like baseball itself —where the greatest of the greats fail 65 percent of the time— that loss was a teacher.

It helped me realize, early in life, that you always have far more options than you think you do. Even when big dreams fall away, or when fantasies do, there’s always so much more ahead of you.

It also taught me, of course, how to be a good Rangers fan. (And I told this story first, a few years back, on a night I felt a similar sense of bitter disappointment)

Man, I’m grateful that I was once a Boy of Summer.

But I’m even more grateful for everything that happened after that, which I couldn’t have possibly fathomed on that night I pulled that tear-stained uniform off for the final time.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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