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Shagging Fly Balls

March 6, 2010

Before everyone showed up for Saturday morning sandlot baseball games, the first ones there shagged fly balls. What that meant was that one of us would stand at the plate and do nothing but hit fly ball after fly ball to the others scattered throughout the outfield. The kid at the plate would toss the ball up in one hand, then quickly grip the bat and hit the ball as high as he could.

I liked nothing better than chasing down those high fly balls. There was something about watching a ball climb skyward, seemingly arcing against a cloud before falling back to earth, daring me to snag it. It was an art, judging the ball’s trajectory. You’d follow its flight into space, and then plant yourself in just the right spot to haul that little white comet in. The exceptions, of course, were the balls wrapped in black electrical tape. They were easier to spot and sometimes they had tails where the tape had come loose.

It seemed as if we were always laughing back then – maybe because of all the balls we misjudged. There was nothing worse than to lose track of a fly ball. Sometimes, you’d start running in on a ball when you should have been backpedaling. By the time you realized it was hit harder than you thought, you’d be running in circles like a circus clown before it landed behind you or on you.

We learned to laugh at ourselves in those days. We learned early on that no one catches all of them.

But we sure did have a good time trying…

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