Rob Oxford: There'll Be Another Season

Monday, April 6, 2020

Not Rob but a similar team
Photo by Mathieu Manchin on Unsplash
By Rob Oxford

Mariners opening day has come and gone and at this point in the season the team should still be in first place. Lol! True Seattle fans should understand the reference.

Little League practices should be underway. We should be hearing the crack of the bat and smelling glove leather. 

We should also be laughing hysterically as the horsehide rolls through our T-ballers legs and they turn to give chase.

Instead we are left wondering if there will be another season. I can assure you there will. Maybe not this year, but baseball will return. So will life as we’ve come to know it. That I firmly believe.

I’d like to share a story about baseball (softball actually) that I hope will bring a smile to your face. Something that may remind you of your days at the park or watching your own children play America's Favorite Pastime.

I'd never hit a homerun before in my life, at least not in a league sanctioned game. Oh sure, I'd poked a few out while playing for the radio station against listeners, but those weren't "real" athletes, they were fans and we were disc jockey's playing on a short field.

However, this day in particular would be different and it would mean everything.

I was invited to play for a softball team that had been comprised of the same players for years, a great bunch of guys! Sponsored by Goldie’s on 45th, these guys took softball seriously. They also took their post-game beer drinking at Goldie’s seriously as well.

I don’t recall the actual name of the division in which we were competing, but it was more than just a recreational type of situation. These guys always tried to win, and they didn’t like to lose.

On a summer day in July my father was in town from Phoenix and it'd been a while since we'd seen each other. We had developed a tight bond since my mother passed away and I was excited to see him. I knew he was coming to the game but didn't know what time and as usual he was casually late.

I was playing shortstop or 3rd base and finding it hard to concentrate. I kept looking over my shoulder for his van to pull up. Finally, it did and I could now give the game my undivided attention.

It is important to take a step back and tell you that my father didn't make a lot of my high school football or baseball games. Though he was retired, my Mom was an executive still working full time and putting in long days. My Dad felt it was his obligation to be at home when she arrived after work, dinner in the oven with a glass of wine on the table. I understand all that now but didn't at 16 and 17 years of age. So, him coming to this game was a thrill for me.

He settled into the stands and commenced to flirting with the wives of my teammates, his specialty. Every so often after throwing a runner our at first I would hear these familiar words emanating from the bleachers..."atta boy Bubba"! It was a little embarrassing I guess, being called "Bubba", but he was very proud of me and not afraid to let anyone know.

Finally, it was my turn to bat and the stage was set. It was literally like something from a Hollywood movie. There were 2 outs and we were down by a couple runs. Now you must understand that although I have always been 6’ and in the 200lb. (plus) range, I was the “little guy” on the team and I was a singles hitter, maybe a double every once in a while, but definitely not a slugger.

So, I'm in the on-deck circle about to make my way to the plate, the hitter in front of me just got on base and what do I hear from the stands? "Come on Bubba, hit a homerun". Ugh!, the ultimate kiss of death. Hit a homerun? I hadn't hit a homerun all year. However, something totally magical was about to take place.

I stepped into the batter’s box, dug myself in and waited for that first pitch. From there, things get a little fuzzy. I don't know if it was the second pitch, third, fourth, heck I barely remember hitting the ball....but I did. Man, did I hit that ball. I couldn't believe it. It cleared the center field fence. I was in total shock but trying to act like it was no big deal. But it was a big deal, a very big deal! I'd just knocked in the tying run.

Did I mention it cleared the "centerfield" fence?

I rounded first and was making my way to second when the infield umpire approached me and pointed back to first. I was confused. Didn't I just go yard? It was then that he quietly explained to me that prior to the game I had not been designated as a "homerun hitter". In this league, teams were only allowed two designated home run hitters and I was not one. A ball hit out by any other player would only count as a single. However, anyone on base would score. So, although I knocked in the tying run, was myself driven home by another teammate and we eventually won the game, my monster shot was not considered a homerun.

Being in his late 70’s, my Dad was a little perplexed. In fact, he was downright upset and starting to draw attention to himself. Something for which Oxfords are quite recognized. That’s when I decided it would be best if one of my teammates on the bench went into the stands to explain the rules to my father.

Undeterred, he insisted it was a load of horse manure. After all, he'd never heard of such a thing and if he’d never heard of such a thing…well then, it was flat out wrong.

After 20 years of marriage, having heard it numerous times, my wife can tell this story as well as I can. It's a memory I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Right along with my youngest hitting his first base clearing round tripper (I still have the ball) and my eldest conducting an unassisted triple play. Proud Dad (and Mom) moments for sure.

Our children need healthy activities and for those who love the game, we need baseball. We also need memories. All of which will return, but until they do: Be Positive and Stay Negative.


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