Swinging for The Fences

            Have you ever tried something you have never done before, and ended up loving it? When I was in the second-grade I ran into a fellow classmate at the park and asked what he was doing here. He then told me that he was here to sign up for little league baseball that was happening this summer. Immediately he said that I should sign up because it was going to be fun, so I went home and asked my dad to sign me up. Next thing I knew my dad and I went to the park and I was signed up to play this summer. With not knowing a thing about baseball I was all up for it and learning about the game.

            One afternoon my dad received a call and it was for me, so I grabbed the phone and it is my new baseball coach. His name was Coach Rod I was so nervous talking to him he could hear it in my voice. “Hi Coach, how are you? I nervous for the upcoming season.” I remember him saying, “Cristian I know this is your first time playing baseball, but it is going to be a great time and you will make a bunch of friends on the team.”  He had also mentioned that it was his first time ever coaching a team, but he has been around the sport for a long time. After we were done getting to know each other a little he said there was practice the following day at five o’clock. We hung up and then I realized that I had no baseball equipment at all. My parents and I went to the closest sporting goods store and I picked out a brown Rawlings baseball mitt, Easton cleats, a pair of pants, and a couple of baseball t-shirts. My parents and I left back home and I was ready for practice the next day.

            Eagerly awaiting to go to my first day of practice my dad finally came home from work and took me to the park. I got off the car and I see about twelve kids walking onto the field and I was intimidated because they looked like they meant business on the field. I walked onto the field met Coach Rod, my first impression of him was that he reminded me of the character Joe Dirt. He was tall, skinny, and no matter the weather outside he always wore sunglasses and shorts. Coach then had us introduces ourselves to one another. After the introductions, we started off with stretching. Once the team and I were done stretching we started to warm up our arms and played some catch. Coach later calls us in a huddle and asks whose first time is it playing baseball and shyly I raised my hand, but also noticed I was not the only one. There were quite a few other teammates that did not play before either. I did not feel as bad anymore and my teammates were easy to get along with. Coach Rod put us in line at home plate and taught how to run the bases and what to do when we reached each one safely. I learned that when the ball was hit and it’s a close play at first base we need to run through the base and then break right because if we broke left then we were still in play and can be tagged out. He then taught how to slide properly into the bases by not sliding with our knee but using the side of our thigh. That was something I always kept in mind because I did not want to get hurt. Day one of practice was coming to an end, but before we left Coach Rod handed us a sheet of paper teaching us some of the rules of the game. I went home after and I carried that paper around me as if it were my bible. Reading that paper religiously I then felt as if I knew the rules and regulations well.

            Week two of practice was strictly all about defense and I was not too sure on what position I would be playing. Growing up I was always one of the taller kids, so Coach Rod put to play third base which was known as the “hot corner” because the ball can be hit down the third base line like if it were a speeding bullet. Coach would hit the ball to each positioned player and taught us where the needed to be thrown in certain situations. I learned that if there was ever a ball hit to the outfield the infielders which is what I played, had to go half way to the outfield and “cut” the ball off so that the outfielder wouldn’t throw it all the way in himself. The team and I learned quickly that coach stopped the drill and had us grab a helmet and bat so we can prepare for batting practice. I didn’t really know how to bat, but coach taught us how to properly hold the bat and how to swing. He did not want us swing up because we were going to miss every time. He had us swing down as if we were chopping wood when the ball was pitched. It taught me how to play smart baseball rather than always trying to be the hero on the team.

            The team and I had our last few practices before our first game and I felt confident heading into opening night. I was so anxious to play that the days flew by and just like that it was opening night. We were the home team so that meant we played defense first and the first ball that was hit was straight to me. I felt like Smalls from The Sandlot catching the ball with my eyes closed, then got the three outs and were up to bat. Coach Rod saw potential in me so he had me batting third which meant I was a dangerous hitter. The announcer gets on the microphone and says, “now batting third the third baseman Cristian Arce!” As I stepped into the batter’s box the pitcher and I lock eyes and I prepare myself for the first pitch. It happened so quickly that I don’t remember seeing the ball coming to the plate at all. Out of nowhere I was stuck in a three ball two strike count and I did not want to strike out. I looked over at Coach and he said, “do not worry Cristian you got this remember what I said play smart baseball.” As the pitcher was winding up I remembered everything coach taught me at batting practice so I kept that in mind when the ball was thrown I swung the bat down and I got a solid base hit into left field. Running down the first baseline with the biggest smile on my face I was very proud of myself.

            We ended up winning that night and overall I felt like I had a good first game. The end of the season came around and we took first place in our division. I already knew I wanted to play again so I signed up for the winter season, but I was going to be placed in a higher division because I was a little older than the rest of my team. Coach Rod was such a great mentor to me because he taught me everything I know now about the game. I knew nothing about baseball when I signed up for it, but then it turned into a passion and till this day I still cannot get enough.