Growing up in the dusty West Texas plains of Odessa in the late 1950s and early 60s, it seemed like everything of importance in my world revolved around school and sports.
We didn’t have lakes nearby to fish in or hills to hike or many trees to climb for that matter, but we did have baseball. Think “The Sandlot.”
So there I was, a scrawny little 6th grader trying out for the Austin Elementary baseball team. Man, I was ready for the big time. Blue and Gold were our colors. Our uniforms consisted of overly-worn faded gold-colored T-shirts with dark blue numerals, but I didn’t care.
I was on a team representing my school.
Coach Harrison assigned me to play 2nd base, and I did pretty good. You see, my dad had taken me down to The Athletic Supply store on Grant Avenue to pick out the baseball glove.
It didn’t take me long to pick out that black leather Nocona-made glove.
Boy, did I feel proud!
Dad had worked with me some in our front yard on how to catch grounders and popups until I got the hang of it and and started practicing on my own.
At the end of the season, Coach Harrison awarded me a baseball signed by him and my teammates for making “the fewest errors.”
From then on, whenever I played baseball, I just seemed to gravitate to 2nd base. I was comfortable there and at home. That was my position.
Fast-forward some 35 years later when my dad mentioned he ran into Coach Harrison working part-time at Melvin’s Clothiers since retiring.
“Really, Dad? It’d sure be great to see him next time I’m out that way, and tell him of the good memories I had playing for him!”
It was around 1995 I drove over to see my old coach at his modest home. Strange seeing a guy after that long, and you’re now a middle-aged adult, and the last time you saw him, you were just a kid.
I told Coach Tommy Harrison what fond memories I had of him and the way he was with us kids. I thanked him for being my coach.
And then I cut to the chase: “Coach, I was just wondering why you put me at 2nd base? I mean, that’s the position I’ve played ever since! Was it because I was maybe ‘shifty around the base pads,’ or you knew I could handle those ‘hot’ grounders coming my way, or possibly because you thought I could work that double play ball?”
Looking a little perplexed, he then responded ”Well, Charlie, I don’t know. Can’t remember.... but I usually put the kid with the weakest arm on 2nd.”
There I was, anticipating a probable ego-boost and it didn’t happen.
Once I recovered, I glanced up at this elderly man from my past. I thanked him again for being a part of my life, and I meant it. Knowing I’d probably never see or speak to him again, I teared up a bit as I drove off.
I was so glad I went. I like to think I helped him have a better day that day and for him to know he was appreciated and not forgotten.
Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.