Baseball As A Kid On The Farm Was Every Bit As Good As In The Big Leagues
There's professional football. There's college football. Then there's college basketball. Then maybe professional basketball. Those dominate the sports fans in America.
It didn't used to be that way.
I love this time of year. Temperatures are warming up, and spring is on the way. I know spring is on the way because in Florida and Arizona major league ballplayers are playing baseball games that don't mean anything.
And that means everything.
It's this time of year I go back, and I mean a long way back. It's 1965.
There was a farmstead (we called it a farm, and I guess it was, barely) one mile south of a little town called Leota in a state called Minnesota. Look at the buildings. There's a two-story old white wooden house that needs some paint and maybe a little re-enforcement. There's a ramshackle nearly falling down red barn, one that won't fall down but will burn down in just three years. A small hoghouse with a few pigs rooting around looking already for the slop that will be fed to them later in the day. And there's the grainery. Red, like the barn and hoghouse, tall with slats on one side and big white doors that slide open to a middle that holds the feed grinder that Dad takes to all the area farms and grinds feed.
But look closer, there on that red siding. It's a triangle, drawn with a mixture of chalks and rock, about waist high on a ten-year-old boy. And if you look in the gravel below it, you'll see a ball. Not a baseball, but a rubber ball that looks like a baseball.
And so it was, this 10-year-old, jeans and tee shirt with a well worn used baseball glove on his left hand, picking up that rubber ball and stepping back to the 'pitchers mound' (OK, actually just a spot on the gravel farm yard, but it was the pitchers mound at the Minnesota Twins Metropolitan Stadium, thank you very much).
And over and over and over, pitching that rubber ball against that red wood of the grainery trying to hit that chalk 'plate' for a strike. Pitching against Mantle and Mays, Aaron and all the rest of the stars of the day. How many pitches through the years? Thousands. And then thousands more.
That little boy was Killebrew and Kaat, Olivia and Tovar and Battey and Pasqual. Only one thing certain.
A Twin. Always a Twin.
Baseball is different now. But it's the same. And I hope somewhere, on some little farm or farmstead, there's a boy (or girl!) throwing a ball against a grainery or barn or house. And dreaming. Imagining. and striking out the greatest major leaguer of the day.