Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Swinging the Bat

I swung a baseball bat an awfully lot as a boy. I didn’t even have to be involved in an organized game of any kind to do it. In fact, for a few years running—I’d say from the ages of eight to ten or eleven—most of this swinging of mine was done all by my lonesome. For the record, I never swung the Louisville Slugger that I received at a New York Yankees’ “Bat Day” promotion—with its Jake Gibbs facsimile signature on it—at anyone’s head or any such thing. Rather, I played a singular version of fantasy baseball—it would seem—in the alleyway that separated my house from a next-door neighbor’s. And I wasn’t pretending to be Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, or Ed Kranepool. No, what I did in that alleyway all those years ago was completely original and a figment of my imagination—imagine that.

I would just go out and “swing the bat”—period and end of story—for anywhere from several minutes to a couple of hours. I remember alerting my mother as to where I could be found. “I’m going out to swing the bat,” I’d say. And that’s not only what I said but what I did. The time of day didn’t matter a whit, either, but it was a seasonal thing. I’d swing that piece of lumber morning, noon, and night, too, in the summertime by and large. An older neighbor of mine—an affable dullard of a teen as I recall—was positively bewildered when he witnessed me one summer’s eve exiting the house with my bat in hand. “He’s going to play baseball in the dark!” he exclaimed. And the doofus was right. I didn’t need the light of day to play whatever it was I was playing.

Recently, I thought about “going out to swing the bat” as a kid, and wondered how that sort of thing might be received today. First of all, a kid in a Bronx alleyway with a bat in his hand—most especially at night—would be frowned upon. After all—just as they shouldn’t play with fire—kids shouldn’t play with baseball bats, either. That is, unless they are being swung under the supervision of an adult in good standing. 

I also don’t know how the act of swinging a baseball bat for hours upon hours—all alone—would be perceived on the contemporary psychiatric front. My behavior might very well be judged as aberrant, and my parents alerted to this noxious bat-swinging compulsion of mine. I’d quite possibly be prescribed some drug du jour to calm me down. You know: to take that unhealthy desire to swing the bat away from me. No more fantasy baseball. Just be a lump, stay indoors as much as possible, stare into a smart phone…and everything will be hunky-dory.

(Photo from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)