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  • After the divorce, baseball was for a moment the one bright spot on an otherwise dark field. The summer of 1959, I was the ninth player on the second-best ten-year-olds baseball team in New Orleans. I played left field and batted eighth. Jerry and I were on the same team. He caught and was full of hustle. He batted third, right before Bobby Larson, the clean-up—a large, red-faced left-hander with a wicked fastball and curve both.

    Maybe coach Dave Adamson deserves most of the credit, but imagine: double plays around the horn at ten years old: 5 to 4 to 3. Once Bobby Larson hummed three quick strikes past a little tyke before he could dig in and before his coach could call time or wave the kid out of the batter’s box. Barely able to hold up his bat. One, two, three, yer out, before he knew what hit him.

    “He can’t do that,” yelled the opposing coach.

    And the ump: “Well, get you boys outta the batter’s box."

    We were out to win and win we did. We came in second in the city championship that year. It was my dropping a simple pop fly in left field in the ninth inning of the championship game that made us lose. That pop-up just looped so slow and languid that I had all the time to imagine the consequences of failing my teammates, and I did.

    The next year Coach Dave broke my heart when he left me back with the ten-year-olds while Jerry and the rest moved up to the eleven-year-olds, a city championship and a trip to Atlanta for the nationals where they made the finals. I was batboy, riding my first train and sitting in the dugout, but little consolation.

    After that, I became a catcher like my brother. All reaction, no time to think behind the plate. But never again on a great team. And never again blessed with a great coach.
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