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Sandlot Baseball – A Big League Poet

May 22, 2010

I suppose if John Tynan of Falls Church, Virginia, had to choose between playing baseball and writing poetry he would glance at a batting rack but eventually pick up a pen, his personal Louisville Slugger. Though we never played ball together, we rode the pine for a few years in Phoenix, Arizona, on a writing team known as Plan B. And it was on that team that I watched him knock out more than a few walk-off, tape-measure metaphors. Talk about literary might… John is to poetry what Lou Gehrig was to baseball – a humble giant.

A sandlotter from the fields of New York’s Old Mahopac High School, John had to be grinning when he clicked the send button on his computer to shoot me his 1970s Little League memories.

“I remember the solid rubber bases and whatever that rectangular thing is that the pitcher uses. There was lots of dust on the mound and along the baselines. We had crappy uniforms. My hat sat on the top of my head like a three layer cake.  I didn’t know what Shipps Construction was, but that’s what it said above my number.  I forget my number but Shipps Construction was synonymous with shame.  We were in last place two years in a row.”

“They put me in left or right field.   I had mostly errors to my credit.  I would invariably mis-judge the ball; it scared the heck out of me… it was hard and it came at you fast. One day, instead of playing in the game, I decided I was going to visit my grandfather who lived down the road.  He was tickled.  I sat at his kitchen table and had a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.”

Several years ago, when my wife, Linda, and I got married in Glendale, Arizona, John wrote a poem for us. For my bachelor’s party, the day before the wedding, several of the guys and I gathered together on a field to shag flies and take a few swings at the plate. John, caught in a severe rainstorm on his way to field, was rained-out of the batting practice. Instead, however, he wrote what he called this “pinch hit” poem:

Batters’ Practice

by John Tynan

Rich and Linda

would like to take a moment, today,

to pause with friends,

and have a conference on the mound,

with all of us in the stands, cheering!

And if I may be so foolish or so brave as to strain

the metaphor of America’s favorite pastime past its breaking point

to find a corollary of baseball as a form

for marriage as evidenced in life,

I might think of it as a kind of question and answer game

to be played out on the ball field

of a municipal park, a couple alone:

the husband lobbing softballs to the wife at bat,

and then the opposite.  The woman pitching

and the husband’s careful attention as readies his bat in reply.

It’s this kind of private practice

that improves individual performance;

finding ways to fine tune and ratchet up

the average for the current season.

But you never hear about these kinds of pairs in the major leagues. 

It’s not the warm-ups that get the attention – 

but the rare exceptions, the three runs batted in

after the 7th inning stretch to clinch the game.

But were they to give credit to the warm-ups,

to these daily tunings, these constant corrections

that might have carried a hitter across the range

of his (or her) better years, they would do good

to look to this simple husband’s and wife’s exchange,

these conscious, considered motions with each at bat.

May Rich and Linda be known, not only for their fantastic saves

in the 9th inning when everyone, when all of us, would be on our feet

and cheering for them from the stands,

but also for their numerous days prepping each other

for the next step up to the plate.

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3 Comments
  1. Way cool! It’s no accident that so many writers are baseball fans, and that baseball is the most written-about sport.

  2. Thanks for your written comments and sharing John’s poem in your post…was very pleasant.

  3. Hi Rich, Marcy S is right. Baseball and writing have always been a natural and happy combination. Especially when they are both done well, like the poem you shared from your friend John. Thanks for sharing the memories and the poetry, Bill

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