In seventh and eighth grade I walked up to a list taped to the Bragg Middle School gym door and scanned it up and down, only to realize that my name was not there. My fears became reality; I failed to make the team. Many of my friends had developed facial hair along with seven-inch growth spurts, while I remained trapped in the same body I had in the sixth grade. My slow development robbed me of any shot of making the Rocket baseball teams.
Just when I wanted to break down and give up, Dad was there to keep me focused, keep me working harder than ever. We never talked about failing to make the team. We simply did what we had always done — grab the bucket of balls, Dad’s fungo, and my bat bag and load up in Ole Blue.
High school rolled around and by then I finally had grown. I had also developed some speed thanks to Dad’s fungo drills, and I ended up playing at the varsity level from my sophomore year through my senior year, thanks to Dad. I went through two different coaches in high school, but I always saw Dad as my head coach.
I want to have a boy of my own one day. I want to teach him what I know about baseball, how to always persevere, how to always stay focused on what’s important and how to never give up.
I want to be his third base coach after he drives a single into left center field. And I know who I want talking to him on first base.
Erik Harris is a sports correspondent for The North Jefferson News.