I love the sound of a ball popping in the leather pocket.
It was the summer of 1989 when my sister competed at a dance contest in Texas. Our first night in town, Dad took me and another brother of a dancer to a game at The Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers were playing the Mariners. Nolan Ryan was on the hill. Ken Griffey, Jr. was a rookie.
Before the game, I connected with Griffey and acquired his autograph on my ticket. I kept it in a sleeve with his rookie card for years. Somehow, and it breaks my heart to write this, but somehow I lost that autograph and card. Most likely, I lost it in one of the dozen moves Jamie and I have made since we’ve been married.
After I got the autograph, we found our seats in the upper deck and spotted Nolan Ryan warming up in the bullpen. I heard Nolan before I saw him (I would be getting my first pair of glasses about three months after the trip). Each pitch echoed as it exploded into the catcher’s mitt.
Whenever I go to baseball games these days, I try my best to get near a bullpen and watch the pitcher warm up. I try and peak at his grips and marvel at his mechanics. But the almost indescribable sound of playing catch is truly music to my soul.
Wilson sent me a brand-new glove and the first time I used it was Opening Day. Since then, I’ve had several friends who have wanted to borrow that glove for playing catch. It doesn’t matter if I throw my slow change-up or even slower knuckleball, the practically perfect pocket on that glove pops loudly with every catch.
When I’m playing catch with Sophie or Kaylea, I intentionally snap at the ball to exaggerate the popping sound.
I drive around town with the glove and ball in the passenger’s seat. At stoplights, I reach for the glove and toss the ball into the pocket.
Pop. Pop. Pop.
The soundtrack of my childhood and deepest, truest dreams.