Down the Dugout Steps

Oct 2, 2014 by

I rarely think about my age.  I tend to tune out conversations when an adult moans about an impending birthday that will signify turning a double digit number ending in zero.  I turned forty in January and my wife threw a party for me.  I drank moonshine and draft beer on our front porch with friends.  I slept in the next day, nursed a hangover with my usual assortment of remedies, picked up the kids who had spent the night with Nana and followed all that up with a trip to the couch to watch a few playoff games.  I awoke the next day and went to work.  Nothing has really changed much in terms of how I celebrate my birthday over the years nor do I feel vastly different from prior years.

Dealing with the present matters at hand tend to take up the majority of space in my head; making any reflection on my age completely absent.  This lack of dwelling on age comes from my parents’ outlook, especially my mother.  When confronted with the simple question of “How old are you, Jan?” she freezes up like a student ill prepared to answer a math problem.  She eventually has to perform the equation in her head to provide the answer.  (Current year – birth year = X) It’s genuine; she immediately cannot pinpoint her age nor does she give a rat’s ass about ever doing so. My father for one not only embraces his birthday, but also confidently proclaims how great he looks for his age.

Similar to my parent’s perspective, except maybe for my father’s lack of humility, I subscribe to their outlook.  Which tends to be – It’s inevitable, so go on about your day.  However, there are a few instances that age becomes more than a symbolic number.   Every so often I am dealt brief moments of hard realities when I know exactly where I am in the aging process.

The first of these realities is how I feel physically.  I play pickup basketball most weeks.  I wake up a little sore on Wednesday’s and Friday’s from the 3 on 3 games I play the day before.  By mid-morning the minor aches fade.  A few months ago I began playing full court games on Monday nights.  So by Friday, after running up and down the court with younger players for two hours on Monday nights coupled with the 3×3 stuff twice a week, I feel like shit.  I limp around the office feeling like I took part in football practice as the tackling dummy.  The recovery time for irritated knees, sharp pains in my shoulder, and a sore elbow (I shoot a lot) becomes elongated with each passing week.

The second instance is when a prominent major league baseball player, with a lengthy career, retires.   When I watched highlights of Derek Jeter’s final home game, I began reminiscing about my time in college watching the 1996 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves.   The shortstop for that Yankees squad was a rookie named Derek Jeter.  “Jeter has been around since my college days…fuck”, I kept telling myself.   It wasn’t the knowledge that Jeter has been around for so long that caused me to feel upset or depressed; it was more about the realization of time and how quickly it seems to pass.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, when a Hall-of-Fame caliber baseball player plays their last game, the elapsing of years becomes suddenly becomes all too real.  As they inch towards retirement and are handed parting gifts by opposing organizations, my mind parallels their playing career moments (the good and the bad) with my own life’s events (The good and the bad).  When top players in other sports I follow retire, Such as the NBA, NFL, NHL, and even individual professional sports like men’s tennis; it just doesn’t have the same effect on me as it does with baseball.

No other sport produces dramatic moments like baseball.  Baseball history is well documented in these, we all can recite the list whether we were alive during the events or not.  It happened again during Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.   First he comes within a few feet short of putting one out in his first at bat.  Then Jeter makes a few nice plays at short ending Oriole rallies.  Finally, with the stars above all aligned, in the bottom of the 9th he cracks a single to right (Which we have seen way too often) producing the game winning RBI.  Yankee players ran onto the field to mob Jeter immediately after the umpire called the runner safe at home plate.   After the on field celebration with his teammates, Jeter took his ceremonial stroll to thank the fans.  He then made his way down the dugout steps and disappeared.  His days playing in the Bronx were over.

As I watched the highlights unfold, images of watching the ’96 series in my dorm room with friends entered my conscience.  Memories continued on throughout the night.  Many of them consisted of Jeter coming through in the clutch against my Red Sox – softly hit singles finding their way to right field off Sox pitchers during the most inappropriate times.

The way Jeter evoked certain recollections’ of the last 18 years there were once others who did the same for other periods of time in my life.  Dwight Evans, Mike Schmidt, Paul Molitor, and Ricky Henderson, to name a few, had similar effects on me when they called it a day.  Each player represented certain eras of my life that not only did I think specifically of my age but what occurred during the time.

I tuned off the television, shaking my head in delight thinking only Derek Jeter would go out that way.  I drifted to sleep with flickering thoughts of loved ones and experiences that shaped my life between the years 1996 through 2014.

Much like Jeter did on the field, I plan to continue to grind it out each day and wait for the next great player to retire…I wonder what Mike Trout’s final season will bring about for me.

I woke up knowing regardless of what happens, aging is inevitable, so I moved on with my day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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