Monday, April 6, 2015

"Every Time You Touch A Baseball, You Learn Something"...

A homerun baseball my kid hit stays close to me... always!
Thank goodness, it's baseball season. I always carry a baseball with me in all the cars I've ever driven. The particular one that watches over me represents the one home run our son hit over a fence in high school. He's has hit more than one in his time playing the game, but never one that totally cleared the fence. I'm not even sure it is the exact ball he hit, though I know he kept that one in his possession most of his life. If it is not, I'll pretend that it is. Heaven knows he kept, on his mantlepiece, a bunch of baseballs of signed and historical significance.

I'm not much into basketball because my father's generation considered it "a sissy's game." His comment always stuck to me, but to see the way the game's played today, I think he may have changed his mind. Regardless, I never could get the hang of the sport. I had no grace and did a lay up like a linebacker, I was once told. On top of that, I just couldn't dribble.

But, baseball has been handed down, in my family, by generations. It was just expected on both maternal and paternal sides of the family that you'd play and excel in the sport. Of the six siblings, four of us were heavy into the sport,. My middle brother had all of the physical tools to play the game well except one. He was partially deaf, and in the late sixties when he played there was little compensation, patience or understanding allowed for just such a "defect."

Some hard lessons were learned early if you couldn't live up to that excellence expectation. I never really thought about game as a kid the way I do now. Being the first born son, I played because it was expected and, like the artist that I am now, as a child, I played for the approval of others. If I drew a picture something someone liked or I hit a single that scored a run, I was happy. My perception was if my performance made everyone happy, then I had a reason to also be happy. If I didn't perform, I was in a funk for days.

Without delving deep into my baseball bio, let's just say that I pretty much put sports, including the "Grand Old Game" on the shelf once I made a small college roster and then quit. At that time, I decided that if I didn't want to be found face down in some rice patty, I'd better just concentrate in college on being a full time artist.

Doing that would be hard enough.

It wasn't until we had a son about ten years later, and that he showed his love for the game by the age of five or six that baseball reentered my consciousness. My wife spent most of Brian's young age together while I struggled to make a name and a business for myself as an artist. I had totally rejected all things sports oriented and what I perceived to be my childhood failures were not gonna be foisted onto our son even if his own mother would ask me to get involved in his athletic endeavors.

I don't recall ever attending his tee-ball games, but when he was placed as an eight year old onto a team of 8, 9, and 10 year olds ( which is not supposed to happen... ) I decided to sit in the stands and watch. Our son didn't play much, but when he did, he impressed the coach, who obviously loved the kids as well as the game. It was a great team and I felt relieved that Brian was being exposed to the right environment for growth.

But, the following year, his nine year old team was a mess and, somehow my complaining to my wife about it, aroused a few other parents to asked me to take over the team. Had Brian showed my talent and love of the game that I had when I was at that age, I would have declined the offer. I just didn't want to relive my ball experience, good and bad and get involved in his life that way. But, I saw a passion and a knowledge in him that was so much more intense, I decided to replace the coach who  spent more time in the stands chatting with single moms than teaching the kids how to love and play the game.

A few years later, becoming totally immersed in Little League, the community, and our son's performance, I found myself occasionally consoling Brian more than he probably really needed it. Maybe, it was because I felt he needed it. I'll never really know for sure if he did or did not. Brian was not an overly verbose kid. I just wanted him to know that I loved every precious moment playing and watching baseball with him. I needed to remind him to keep the game and life in perspective.

In order to illustrate my concerns, I told him a story my dad once imparted to me to console a bad performance on the field.

"Ben, you see this ball?" he asked as we sat in his car waving a scuffed, grass stained baseball in his hands.

"This is more than just a ball with 108 stitches, five and one quarter ounces of cork, string and horsehide. It's more than just whether you hold it as a four seamer or two seamer. It is more than just how you set your fingers for a curveball or a changeup or how's you see it as it comes to you as a hitter. It will teach you something about who you are and how you handle adversity, as well as, how you handle the good times. It can teach you a lot about yourself, your game, and about life. Just remember that..."

"Every time you touch a baseball, you learn something!"

I hope he understood what I was trying to say. I know, for me, I'm still learning...

Copyright 2015/Ben Bensen III


  1. Fucking awesome Ben! I believe we had the same baseball life. When I was good I was great but if I wasn't I was a miserable mofo. Hair length forced me out of baseball in JHS since baseball coaches were like marine drill sergeants and I just liked playing the "game". You really have to be driven to make it in any sport and I'd rather hang out with my buddies which is why I never ended up playing centefield for the Yankees like I thought I would. But then I never became the next Charles Shultz or Neil Young either. C'est la vie...

    1. Thanks for the comment here on my blog, Dick. We don't have too many lovers of the game on Facebook, so I appreciate it. I also understand where you were coming from as a kid playing the game... sandlot to high school.

      We're both at the age where there is no more "shucking and jiving" who we are and why we are where we are at this point in our lives. The days of bullshitting ourselves, especially of our athletic prowess, has long since gone and we are left, hopefully, with a better understanding of ourselves and our relationships with family and friends... and the game!

      The only thing that is harder than seeing all Brian's trophies, bats, balls, scorecards, card collection, and his two infielder's gloves sitting on my shelf in my studio, is starting the baseball season without him. This will be my third year of doing so!