Wait. Wait. Yep. Ya, that sounds about right.
Those four words perfectly describe my entire Little League career. Four words. That’s all it takes.
Little League baseball was undoubtedly the highlight of my athletic career. Everything from that point on is short, sweet, and revolves around a towel and a bench (if you get my drift).
I don’t have many “firsts” to my name, but the one I do hold to my name is quite prestigious in the eyes of New Albany Little League baseball. I was a player on the first New Albany Little League baseball team. Quite an honor if I say so myself.
For years I played in the local recreational league, but it was only in the final year of my eligibility that the rec league became affiliated with Little League and began playing in the annual tournament.
My friends and I were ecstatic at the opportunity to play in the tournament we had been watching for years on ESPN. The thought of playing the mighty Japan team in Williamsport, Pennsylvania was something I had always dreamed of. Reality set in right after we got clobbered in the first game of the district tournament, but I kept dreaming anyway.
Let me first begin by describing my physical appearance. I’ll just be straight with you; I was fat. Really really really fat. As you can imagine, even when I had my P.F. Flyers laced up, I was still the slowest kid on the team by a mile.
I’m a southpaw, and since I couldn’t pitch, and I had the weakest arm on the team, it was only natural that I patrolled the first base line (which I did with a lot of swag I might add).
For a kid with terrible lateral quickness and super slow reflexes, I played the position fairly well. I was well-regarded for my ability to pick balls out of the dirt, stretch farther than any fat kid you’ve ever seen, and my amazing ability to make friends with the opposing team’s first base coach. My coaches were never too pleased with that, but what can I say? I like to make friends.
At the plate, I was an absolute show. I never hit a home run in my astonishing career, but you certainly wouldn’t had known that from the way I approached the plate.
Since Jews don’t have a cross to make across their chest like Catholic baseball players do before they go up to bat, I decided to make up my own symbol using the Jewish star. It was long, intricate, and outrageously awkward at times, but I just wanted to be like the guys in the big leagues. What’s wrong with that?
If Kevin Youkilis is the “Greek God of Walks,” than I was most certainly the “Jewish God of Walks.” Teammates would joke that I would try harder to draw a walk than get a hit. I will plead the fifth on that argument, but I must say there is something marvelously sexy about someone who can outduel the opposing pitcher and earn the right to trot to first base. I always did it in style too. I causally flipped my bat over to the dugout, tipped my cap to the ladies in the stands, and rightfully jogged my fat ass over to first base.
Back to the important stuff though, the World Series of amateur sports: the Little League tournament.
After three weeks of practice and meticulous rounds of infield drills and batting practice, the team headed off to the holy land that is Cambridge, Ohio.
For those of you who have never heard of Cambridge, Ohio, you are surely missing out on a sight to see. It is a marvelous place off of interstate I-70, filled with McDonald’s, Denny’s, and this resort hotel called the Comfort Inn, where the Little League celebrities stay for the duration of the district tournament.
Unfortunately for our team, we forgot that being treated like celebrities with cool uniforms and having our names pronounced correctly during pregame ceremonies didn’t replace the game itself. We got destroyed in games one and two, learning quickly that there were teams far superior to us “N’albs.”
Luckily for us, we had game three to get our heads back together and make history.
We knew that this was our best chance to get a win and leave our legacy in Cambridge. Our opponent was Guernsey County, the other team in our bracket that had had lost every game thus far.
The starting pitcher for Guernsey County was some small, short, skinny lefty who cocked his hat to the side to try to scare us. This kid had no idea what he had coming.
The first time I stepped up to bat, I hit a soft ground ball right at the first basemen. Disappointing? Yes. But I didn’t let this brat get to my head.
When I came up to bat two innings later, I smacked an inside fastball down the first base line and rumbled in for a double. Safe to say I was feeling good.
Fast forward to the bottom of the fifth inning (Little League games only last six innings, so this was prime time right here). I remember it like yesterday.
It was a tie game and we had a runner on second with yours truly up to bat. I wanted this chance, and I wasn’t going to let it slip away.
“First pitch…a shot to left-center that takes a bounce to the wall! One man will score! New Albany takes the lead 5-4! Teich with the big hit!” The guys calling the game on the radio were flat-out awful, but nothing was as sweet as hearing those words fly off the tongue of their mouths.
We went on to win the game in style. After giving up three walks in a row to load the bases, we called upon our ace to get the job done. In classic Little League fashion, our ace struck out the next three batters to end the game and give New Albany their first Little League tournament win. We were officially apart of history.
Seven summers later, I still think back to my Little League days; all the joy and happiness it brought me. I played on a lot of bad teams, a few good teams, some really entertaining teams, but mostly average teams. But during those fun summers, I learned how to be a good teammate, treat my opponents with respect, and play with every ounce of heart inside of me.
Watching the Little League World Series this past week on ESPN, it brought me back to those golden days. It reminded me of all the great memories I had on those diamonds at Bevelhymer Park, and what I would give to replay those Saturday afternoons all over again.
This may just be me, but it seems like the older I get, the more I enjoy watching the Little League World Series. Maybe I’m just seeing the game from a different perspective now, but the look on those kids’ faces is truly priceless. The smiles, the laughs, and the tears; it all brings me back to that memorable weekend in Cambridge, Ohio.
For the love of the game. What does that mean again?
Us sports fans tend to forget that there was a time in our lives where we actually played sports out of pure love and enjoyment. Watching the Little League World Series this past weekend, it jolted those great memories back into the forefront of my mind. Most importantly, it reminded me that sports aren’t really about the money, the fame, or the rings: it’s about the love of the game.