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Why I Play Catch

Playing catch to me is personal. There may be no other activity as personal as playing catch. You see the person as who they are, they somehow open up to you and you to them. With every throw people are either caught thinking about years gone by when there was nothing more to do than play catch or simply caught in the moment and a smile suddenly illuminates their eyes.

I think a lot about playing catch. I’ve done it most of my life. I was blessed to be born into a family where sports weren’t demanded but embraced. I remember countless hours playing with my father and brother. I even remember endlessly pelting my grandmother’s underhand fastball when my brother and I would spend a week in the summer with her. It wasn’t her fault it was the best she could do. She didn’t know that as a pitcher you can’t live in the middle of the plate and instead aimed for it. I guess she got what she deserved, constantly dodging a never-ending borage of comebackers. 

Me and my son Roman breaking up a road trip by playing catch in Alabama.

We don’t always get what we deserve in life. Not sure I deserved the suburbia lifestyle with neighborhood friends who appeased my obsession with sports by being teammates or adversaries. Those countless summer days of playing until you outlasted the sun seemed to be as plentiful as my grandmother’s fastballs down the center of the plate. As a kid you never think about those days ending. Now, my grandmother and the big oak trees that marked her property are both gone and so are the days of playing catch with an innocence. 

My first team was the Orioles in Pflugerville Little League sponsored by Woody's Auto. Never wore jeans to a game because they didn't play in jeans on television.

I’m keenly aware of my days of playing catch are numbered, especially of playing catch with my father. I’m not so sure why the game of catch has meant so much to my life. It just does. My eyes feel with tears as I think about it. Maybe it’s because of all the time my father and I spent together working on something, fastball, curveball, changeup, or just throwing harder. Or maybe it’s all the time we worked on nothing. We just simply wanted the peace and tranquillity of a game of catch. 

I loved it. Loved every minute of it and if I could go back I would for just one more game of catch. Those endless summer days, games of catch, and my grandmother’s fastballs all unfortunately have come to an end. Maybe that’s why I have such an appreciation of playing catch with my son. It’s a beautiful thing to be blessed with a partner to play catch. It’s also a blessing to live in the naivety of a child who doesn’t consider the end, only the present. 

Maybe that’s the beauty of playing catch. It keeps you in the present with whoever you are with. There is nothing else in the world. Just you, a partner, and a ball floating through the air. There is no time, no years, just catch.

The years have seemed to catch up to me. The hardest ball I’ve ever thrown, I likely threw almost 30 years ago. Somehow my decreasing skills haven’t diminished my love of playing catch.

The last meaningful team I played on at Concordia Lutheran College. We won the conference and finished 40-18. Biggest win was against Baylor. The field is no longer there and it's now Concordia University.

I contemplate the day I no longer play catch and consequently my own mortality because the day I can no longer play catch is the day I am no longer alive, if only figuratively and not literally. To this day I still long for the day of putting on a uniform, feeling the dirt between my spikes, and running on a field filled with possibilities. The possibility of making a diving catch or hitting a home run. All of those possibilities are gone now and I’m left with simply playing catch. It’s more than enough. It’s all I could ask or hope for. When that hope is gone, I will have lost everything in my life that has always been good. From growing up to growing old, playing catch has been the one constant in my life.

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