December started with a Tornado Warning, because Mother Nature is having some kind of midlife crisis. I turned the TV on and saw the red and yellow radar screen, quickly followed by the meteorologist who then called out my neighborhood. For thirty minutes, my family gathered in the hall bathroom with the pets and watched Netflix while winds howled outside. When I woke up, I was surprised to discover all tree limbs attached and the trampoline still located right-side-up in our backyard.
I met Mark at the old baseball field downtown. In the bullpen where I pitched to Taiki (Day #251), the fence had been blown down. The outfield grass was quite squishy, so we moved today’s game to the white-gravel infield.
“It’s been probably 12 or 13 years since I last played catch,” Mark said. “I was on a softball team and used to play against Marty (Day #95). As for throwing a baseball, man…it’s been quite some time.”
Mark is the owner of Downhome Productions which is why he knows everyone in southwest Missouri and beyond. A Royals fan from day 1, Mark was 8 years old when the team came to town, cheering on Freddie Patek and then George Brett.
“I’ve always been a big baseball fan, always wanted to play more than I got the chance to play. Growing up as a kid on a farm, all we had was one baseball. We’d play with it until it turned green as grass. Sometimes we hit it in the pond and the stitching would come loose, but we still used it. I remember searching for hours trying to find that ball in the grass. Now, when I go to a game and see a bucket full of pearly white baseballs, I laugh and still remember that one green baseball.”
And that memory inspired his song One Green Baseball which is recorded on the CD Songs of the Game. The CD includes baseball songs from Tony Orlando, Kerry and Tracy Cole (of The Lefty Brothers), Randle Chowning (Founder of Ozark Mountain Daredevils), John Schlitt (of Petra), and Bob Walkenhorst (of The Rainmakers).
The CD is simply the perfect soundtrack to this catch-playing year.
The ridiculous wind briefly subsided this morning, then returned with a vengeance this afternoon. It blew so hard I’m certain even grounders would have curved. Mark’s friend Josh accompanied us and requested a few pop-ups. I threw them high and watched them drift, keeping Josh on his toes.
“Baseball is truly the greatest game of all. It’s tradition. It goes deep into the fabric of our country, including the mythical origin story.”
Just like a game of catch, music is a great way to honor and pass along that tradition to the next generation.
To all of my catch-playing friends: Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
May Santa bring you a new glove, a bucket of pearly white baseballs, and songs to celebrate this great game!