Ross Dember and Alex Schroeder | Five-feet nothing
‘A little roller up along first’
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 09:09
This week, the second half of the column tandem is taking over to start the weekly rotation. I, Alex, am here to reminisce on the sometimes-good, sometimes-not-so-good days of my youth athletic aspirations.
Little League baseball might be the biggest youth sports organization of all. On a grand scale, the Little League World Series is broadcast on ESPN each year, with highlights of home runs littered across SportsCenter for at least the week-and-a-half span within which the games take place.
More simply put, though, if you played sports as a younger child, chances are you played Little League baseball.
Baseball was always a sport I felt I was lagging behind in — I didn’t have the same instincts. I played t-ball when I was much younger, but it wasn’t until I was 9 years old that I actually resumed my baseball career. All of my friends were in “majors,” the 9-12 year-old league, while I was still getting my wings in the “minor league,” one you could be in until you were 10.
While all of my friends would come into third-grade class talking about their playoff race, I was stuck with nothing to contribute, and I looked up to those teams, actually dreaming of playing with some of the 12 year-old stars that could put the ball over the fence or had pitches clocked at 60 mph.
Needless to say it felt good when I stepped up as a 10 year-old to the major league and was able to partake in the trash talk with a team of my own to finally defend.
My team wore orange jerseys with “Pool Care” scribbled in black cursive letters across the front. Much to my surprise, we found ourselves in the championship of the Pawcatuck Little League in 2004.
I usually got the start at second base. It was perfect for a young, energetic, but still inexperienced player like myself. Short throws for the putouts at first, didn’t have to cover the bag at second on the majority of double plays or steals, yet I still had a hand in communicating with the outfield.
The championship game that year came down to a tie game in the bottom of the sixth inning. There was just one out, and the bases were loaded. We were in the field, while Whistle Stop, a black-and-gold-donned perennial powerhouse (two of the kids from that team now play college ball) sponsored by a local breakfast standby, was at the plate looking for the final run.
I can still see it in my head. A slow dribbler came off the end of the bat, rolling towards me. Make the play at home, I thought, and we’re one step closer to staying alive.
I gaffed it.
This was no Bill Buckner through-the-legs-at-the-back-of-the-bag blunder, but the extra time it took me to gather the ball from beside me was enough. By the time I looked up, the wave of black and gold had already flooded the field from the opposing dugout.
My brother still reminds me of this play to this day. It definitely stings, though I see it as part of learning how the game works. Though his mistake at Shea Stadium in Game Six in 1986 is the first thing that comes to almost every baseball fan’s mind when they hear the words “Bill Buckner,” it actually shouldn’t be what defines his career. Buckner won a batting title in 1980 as a member of the Cubs, and he was selected for the All-Star game in 1981.
There’s still a picture in my living room from when I was 11 years old, one year later. It’s a photograph of me making an out at second base in the game when we, not Pool Care but the 11-year old Pawcatuck All-Star team, won the District Championship.