Life as we know it
The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill has sent us her husband’s “Little League Coach’s Diary, Vol. VI, Ch. 1”:
“‘Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.’ — Roger Angell, writing in ‘The Summer Game.’
“When I was 11 years old, I read a feature story in the newspaper in which the reporter interviewed a group of 12-year-old boys who were outside playing on a summer day. The boys had reached a consensus that being a 12-year-old boy was just about the best thing anyone could be. They could ‘do stuff.’ They weren’t little kids anymore, and they did not yet have the problems teenagers had.
“At the time, I thought being 11 was pretty great. After reading the story, I could not wait to turn 12. I took the story literally and, for some reason, have never forgotten about it.
“In the 38 years since, I have come to realize the reporter probably had a different point in mind: that the age between being a little boy with a high-pitched voice and being a gangly teen with acne is no time at all. It passes like a summer day, playing with friends.
“On Sunday, Midway Blue’s 11/12U Rec State team had a summer day for the ages.
“We had gone 2-1 in ‘pool play’ games Friday and Saturday and were the No. 5 seed in the six-team elimination round. We arrived at the fields at 8:15 Sunday morning for our 9 a.m. game. We nearly ran ourselves into a loss, with three kids getting picked off of bases when they were not paying attention. Despite the mistakes, we led 8-6 after five innings and allowed only one run in the top of the sixth and held on for an 8-7 win to advance to the semifinal.
“In the semifinal, we played another St. Paul team from the Parkway league. Games are just six innings at this age. In the top of the sixth, we had a chance to end the game at 5-4, but a two-out fly ball hit to center was just beyond our center fielder’s reach and the tying run scored from second base. Our kids somehow pulled off a hidden-ball trick, and our shortstop tagged the go-ahead base-runner as he wandered off second base for the third out of the sixth. They devised the trick all on their own. I didn’t know it has happening until the umpire called the runner out. We remained tied 5-5 after the seventh, but leaked in two runs in the top of the eighth to trail 7-5. With our bottom five hitters coming up and Parkway throwing its top pitcher, we faced a stiff challenge, but we started the inning with two singles, a strikeout and a walk and tied the game on two more hits. With two outs and the bases loaded, our three-hole hitter came up and hit a high hopper to short. The shortstop caught the ball and, rather than throw to first, started a foot race to second base to try to force the runner who had been at first. Both kids slid into the base at the same time. The umpire was right on top of the call: ‘Safe!’ We won 8-7.
“Everyone figured that the championship game would not be nearly as exciting as that 8-inning marathon. Everyone was wrong.
“We trailed 1-0 after one and 6-4 after two. The score stood at 6-6 after three, and we trailed 8-6 after four, but were tied 9-9 after five. After we batted in the top half of the sixth, we had taken a one-run lead, 10-9.
“Having played five games, including the eight-inning semifinal marathon, we were riding our eighth pitcher of the tournament, a tall left-hander who does not throw hard, but throws just enough strikes and has an unconventional motion that makes him harder to hit than he should be. He had come on for the last out of the second inning, pitched through a 25-minute rain shower, and was still on the mound to get the first out of the sixth. After a series of misplays and hits, though, the game was tied with runners on second and third.
“By this point, the third-place game had finished and the other Midway team in the tournament had gathered to watch. The cluster of four fields had been crowded with kids all weekend but, now, we were the only game to see and bodies had lined up all along the infield fences. Conversations stopped. Our game had become a pitch-by-pitch drama.
“I called time to do three things: (1) walk the batter to load the bases to set up a force-out at home; (2) pull the infield onto the infield grass and move the outfielders closer, to cut down the runner on third; and (3) summon our top pitcher, who, under the rules, could face only two batters before hitting his pitch limit for the tournament.
“Our top pitcher is a left-hander and only 10 years old. He stands just 4-foot-8, has long dirty-blond hair and wears high, striped socks with his uniform. He throws hard, and he throws strikes. He would face the biggest kid in the tournament, who was a legitimate 6-foot-2.
“After his warmup tosses, our 10-year-old lefty threw his first pitch. Ball one. He threw his second pitch. Ball two. Then his third pitch. Ball three. One more ball out of the oversized zone, and we would lose. He took a deep breath and tossed the ball right across the heart of the plate for strike one. The next pitch induced a swing and a miss for strike two. With a full count, he threw another fastball over the plate. The batter swung and missed for a strikeout and the second out of the inning.
“Our fielders returned to their regular positions, and our lefty stayed in his groove. On a 2-2 count, he induced a short popup in between home and the pitcher’s mound. Our pitcher called for it, but our much taller catcher got there first, knocked our pitcher to the ground, caught the ball and held on. We would head to extra innings, tied 10-10.
“We scored four runs on a string of hits in the top of the seventh to take a 14-10 lead. Our ace lefty had used up his pitches, so we brought in our ninth pitcher of the tournament. The first batter hit a ground ball to shortstop, but our shortstop overthrew first. After some hits and walks, we still had a 14-11 lead over our opponent, who had a runner on third and one out. The batter chopped a ball back to the pitcher, who first looked to third, then threw the ball over the first baseman’s head. 14-12. I nearly pulled our pitcher —mostly because I thought everything was about to fall apart, and I did not want just one kid to bear the brunt — but he wanted the ball, and I figured I still had time to pull him out before it was over. He induced a 5-3 putout, but the tying run had advanced to second. The next batter hit a ball just in front of home; our catcher threw it to first, but pulled our first baseman off the bag. Our first baseman caught it and held on and, I thought, had the ball in time and held the base, but the umpire called the runner safe. Because he is only 11, our first baseman argued the call and looked away, allowing the runner who had been on second to round third and score to tie the game, 14-14. Our pitcher struck out the next batter and stranded the winning run on third.
“In the top of the 8th, we rallied with the bottom of our order and scored three runs to go ahead 17-14. I sent the same pitcher back out. Our 10-year-old ace lefty had recovered from the catcher knocking him over, so I moved him to play first base, where he recorded all three outs — an unassisted ground ball and two popups — to end the game.
“The kids were delirious from playing 22 innings, but burst into cheers and ran and jumped onto the field the only way that kids can. They had played eight hours of baseball. They had surprised themselves and stunned their parents.
“When they look back on it years from now, they will remember exactly what it was like. A part of them will always be who they were on Sunday — no longer a little boy but not yet a teen, playing all day and, if only for a while, defeating time itself.”
Rusty of St. Paul reports: “I had the chance to go for a sail on Lake Superior the other day on my brother-in-law’s boat.
“I am a novice. He had me manning lines, which I guess are called ‘sheets,’ though it seems to me sheets should be the sails. I did tell him to use layman terms with me when giving directions, so when he started yelling from the cockpit for me to ‘hoist the jib by pulling the halyard,’ I yelled back: ‘What the halyard are you talking about?’
“‘Pull on the blue rope, the one in the middle!’
“The first pull went pretty easy, but the second tightened up and I found that I couldn’t move my left leg; plus, I felt my butt becoming exposed.
“Turns out the cuff of my pants had become stuck between the line I was pulling on and the pulley on the deck the line was going through — so as I raised the sail, I lowered my pants. I was laughing so hard I had trouble explaining the dilemma, plus was getting concerned how to get my pants loosened, as my leg was stuck at the ankle and I couldn’t bend over easily.
“Somehow my pants leg came free, I was able to hoist my pants AND the sail, and off we went.”
Our flora, ourselves
Mounds View Swede writes again: “While visiting a friend to celebrate a 91st birthday, I noticed some of the blossoms the senior care facility had outdoors and, when I left, spent a couple of moments photographing the ones that caught my eye. I had to go online to try to learn what they might be. Any readers with more knowledge are invited to correct me and add any information they may have.
“I think this first one is brunnera. All the images I found online had blue blossoms instead of purple, but the same shape and white centers and clusters. [Bulletin Board says: Our resident Master Gardener says that’s purple verbena.]
“This is a petunia, but the color combination was a new one for me.
“I thought this cluster of tiny blossoms with different colors was really unusual, as was its name: a lantana camara called Luscious Citrus Blend. It was fun for me to see these types that seemed so different.
“When I got home, I took a look at the seed dahlias I had planted. This first one, with its gentle hues and delicate shading, made me think of purity — like a bride’s dress.
“A variation in the next planter was a little more complex. I plant these because I noticed the bumblebees seem to like them; plus, I find the blossoms attractive.
“And as soon as I backed away, one came to dig in — showing me it appreciates them, too.”
Life as we know it (responsorial)
Or: Fellow travelers (responsorial)
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Scary motels.
“Gregory of the North‘s story of a hotel that charged by the hour reminds me of a trip I took to the East Coast and back in 1977 with two college classmates. Driving through Massachusetts, we decided it would be fun to stay the night in Salem — known for the witch trials. Night was falling as we drove through it, not finding any place to stay. Continuing, we arrived in Lynn, Massachusetts, and booked a room. As we ferried our belongings to the room, we became aware that it might not be the safest place for three women in our 20s to stay. At least two of us went out together to bring additional belongings in for the night.
“Then there we were, in a motel that scared us. We each took a different approach. One went to bed quickly. After wedging a chair under the doorknob and drinking some wine, I did, too. In the morning, we found that the third roommate had stayed up and on guard all night, armed with the corkscrew. Roommate #2 asked her what she would have done if a guy broke in: ‘Sc**w him to death?’
“In the morning, we loaded up our stuff and got out as fast as we could. A well-off family was also dashing out with their things; whatever happened next door to them added to their fear of the place. We exchanged stories in the parking lot, once we had all gotten out safely.
“And Lynn, Massachusetts, became our code for where we Did Not want to stay.”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin, reports: “Subject: ¡Ándale, Ándale! Bottoms up!
“I thought of a great name for a powerful new Tequila cocktail. No recipe, just the name: ‘Juan Too-many.'”
God (and/or the Devil) is in the details
Or: Only a ___________ would notice!
Email from Donald: “Subject: There’s a BIG difference between walking and riding in a Volvo!
“The recent references to mistakes in movies reminded me of a glaring error in a TV ad for Volvo. It was the one that featured the text from Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of the Open Road.’ While the person in the video began driving across the countryside, a voice-over intoned: ‘Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road . . . .’
“Maybe he was light-hearted,’ but he certainly wasn’t ‘afoot.’ He was driving a car, for crying out loud!
“I’m sure I was the only one who noticed the screwup!”
Barbara of Afton: “I’ve enjoyed the comments are gaffes in movies. I specialize in pointing out inconsistencies in books. In a recent read (‘Blood Orange’ by Susan Wittig Albert), a supposed quote from a herbalist states that in the 1200s, chilis were used to flavor beers. Since chilis were New World plants, it’s hard to imagine how they used them before Columbus.”
Joy of Juxtaposition
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Saturday night, my wife and I watched a repeat of ‘Saturday Night Live’ from 2016. The musical guest was Bruno Mars.
“Sunday morning, I opened my Pioneer Press to find this headline in the ‘A&E LIVE’ section on Page 11A: ‘Bruno Mars dazzles sold-out Xcel.’
“He sure gets around.”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division
Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Fifty-two weeks a year!
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview:
“‘We are OPEN Sundays!'”
A joke for today
From Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “A husband and wife who work for the circus go to an adoption agency. Social workers there raise doubts about their suitability.
“The couple produces photos of their 50-foot motor home, which is clean and well maintained and equipped with a beautiful nursery.
“The social workers raise concerns about the education a child would receive while in the couple’s care.
“‘We’ve arranged for a full-time tutor who will teach the child all the usual subjects along with French, Mandarin, and computer skills.’
“Then the social workers express concern about a child being raised in a circus environment.
“‘Our nanny is a certified expert in pediatric care, welfare, and diet.’
“The social workers are finally satisfied. They ask: ‘What age child are you hoping to adopt?’
“‘It doesn’t really matter, as long as the kid fits in the cannon.'”
Band Name of the Day: The Hidden Balls
Website of the Day: Lantana camara