Baseball: A Story of Our Lives?

This was my first speech in the Competent Toastmaster series.  It was originally given in March 2002.

Youth: 1st Game
It was the 27th of June 1971.  For my birthday, my parents took David, my best friend, and me to our first baseball game.  It was a twi-night doubleheader.   The Phillies versus the Pirates.  We drove those 90 miles from Cape May to Philadelphia while the immortals still roamed the field; the games sported four future hall-of-famers: Jim Bunning pitched the first game for the Phillies, Mazeroski took up second for the Pirates, Stargell was on first, and my all-time favorite, Roberto Clemente, anchored right field.

Each of us has certain images are burned into our memories.  I was six-years old when I walked into the newly-opened Vet, strolled up to the 300-level and gazed out onto the bright green artificial turf.  It would be romantic if it were grass, but they play on turf at the Vet . . . It was then I fell in love with this wonderful game.

Greeting
Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, and honored guests, baseball is a story of our lives.  From the dawn of a new season, to the play of a rookie, onward to the long grueling days of summer season after season, until finally the playoffs, the World Series, and ultimately retirement. Baseball is the story of our lives.  Baseball is the story of my life.

Adolescence: Carlton game with Dad
Many years after that first game I found myself tucked away at boarding school in Middletown, Delaware during adolescence.  It was a good place to be.  My parents wanted something a little better for me.  Academically, I was challenged.  It was a beautiful campus with lots to do.  I met three friends who have been dear in my life.

On one non-descript April Saturday, I was in my dorm room when a friend burst in to tell me my father was waiting in the parking lot.  Dad is in a wheelchair and could not climb the three flights of the old stone building to my dorm room.  I rushed down to the car.  “Hop in Fritz,” he said.  “We’re going to see Carlton pitch.”  Carlton never threw a no-hitter, but he pitched a beauty that evening.  It was into the eighth before he relinquished his only hit of the night.  The Phils had notched another win.  Afterwards, Dad drove me back to Delaware.  Then he drove himself the two-and-one-half hours back to Cape May.  I do not know what possessed my Dad to drive all that way, but I think it is what fathers do.

Young Adult: Follies @ Fenway
Later, I went to college and had my only World Series experience.  More important, however, I graduated.  For all my life I was told I could sow my oats on my own time.  So it was off to Boston, Massachusetts.  I arrived with an agenda.  I was a restaurant manager.

It is not easy to schedule a day when the cook, the bartender, waitresses, and the manager are all off together.  I managed to do so once and we all crowded in the 57 bus from my apartment to Kenmore Square where Fenway Park is.  We imbibed in a few beverages of our choice and entered the yard in good spirits on that sweltering hot afternoon.  Roger Clemens was on the hill.  We cheered enthusiastically for him as he was a frequent diner at the restaurant.  Pete Incaviglia took up centerfield for the Rangers.  We were merciless on him as we chanted, “Stinky Inky!”  We smiled as we exited Yawkey Way after another Red Sox win.

The merry bandwagon of the New England Experiment lasted a rollicking four years.  By the time I left the area, the Sox were re-building for a better team and I was re-building a better career.

Settling Down: Remaining Sharp—A Thinking Man’s Game
It was back to New Jersey I came accepting that my way hadn’t worked.  I enrolled in graduate school, became a teacher, and adopted [Cumberland County] as my new home.

I was an adult now, but it was to baseball I turned for my pursuits.  I studied the game as I had never before.  Why does one walk Barry Bonds with the bases empty and how does one implement the perfect hit-and-run?  These questions and others I debate daily with my friends online.

But the shear pleasure of the game is not lost.  Last June for my birthday, my fianc�e and I watched the division-leading Phillies take on the Braves.  The celebration of my day at the park was enjoyed with 25,000 others as the crowd sang Happy Birthday to me, tossed confetti all over us, and placed my name in lights on the Diamondvision.  We rooted strongly for the Phils, but sadly, they were not up to the task that evening.

Near Future: Teaching My Child to Play/Old Age: Relaxation
This June, Patty and I will be married.  We are hopeful to have children.  I picture myself in the yard teaching my youngster how to play the game of baseball.  But long after that child is grown and I trade in the papers I grade nightly, I see another image burned in my mind.

It is of a warm summer day and a porch.  A glass of lemonade sweats on the rail.  The radio plays the game.  And I am sitting in a rocking chair . . .scorecard in my lap . . . smile upon my face.

The game of baseball tells the story of our lives.

Mr. Toastmaster.

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2 thoughts on “Baseball: A Story of Our Lives?”

  1. Re: Adolescence: Carlton game with Dad

    My father did the same thing for me when I attended boarding school in Newtown PA. This was in 1982 I think and he took me to see Carlton pitch on Saturday afternoon at the vet. Sweet. I still have the boxscore.

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