I spotted Mark stretching on the right field line as I entered the stadium. Fifty guys gathered at the U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark, Missouri for the open workout the day before the Grip ‘N’ Rip League tryouts. There was great comfort knowing I had an encouraging catch partner waiting for me.
Stretch. Jog. Throw. Smile.
A steady and gentle breeze swirled around the field, helping cut through the humid morning, even if it was less than 80 degrees.
Less than 80 degrees on August 3. That’s ridiculous.
Tony Lewis, the commissioner of the league, greeted all the hopeful ballplayers with the simple instructions that today was a day of batting practice and getting acclimated to the field.
For example, the turf of U.S. Baseball Park is fast. Grounder bounces and hops are true, but they require quick and sure reflexes. Everyone took their positions. I lined up at second base with four others, including two who played in the league last year. Before it was my turn to field anything, we were called in for the next round of batting practice.
Two rounds. Ten swings the first round. Five swings the second. I tried my best to hit the ball where it was pitched, hoping to make solid contact.
And I honestly have no recollection how I did. I mean, I hit what Tony threw, the bat felt great in my hands, but as soon as I made contact, he was gearing up for the next pitch. I took a breath, took my swings, and kept the line moving.
After taking my swings, I went to the outfield and got a good session of fly balls from Coach Lael, head of baseball operations for the league.
There was a lot of talent on the field today. There will be more talent on the field tomorrow.
With my dri-fit shirt positively glued to my body, I walked to the van and couldn’t stop smiling.
“I know it’s just a game, but it is just so much fun being on the field,” I overheard one of the other outfielders say.
Tomorrow morning, the four hours of fun continues.
Tryouts are here.