Thursday, May 29, 2008

American Legion Baseball in Las Vegas

The whole family drove to Las Vegas to watch Tighe's American Legion team compete for the regional championships, and the right to attend the World Series. We got a room at Circus Circus, at special rates that were arranged through the team. Jeremy asked a very smart question for a fourteen year old while we were there. He wanted to know why he wasn't allowed to gamble his money on a slot machine, where he might have a chance of increasing his five dollars, but he was allowed to throw it away on the video games, where he had no chance of increasing his money. I never did have a good answer for him.

When we got to the game the first morning, someone came to the bleachers and told us that the temperature of the grass on the field at game time was 124°. That was at about 9:00 a.m., if I remember correctly. That was just the first game. By the time we won the series and went home, we were all sunburned and exhausted from the heat, but thoroughly overjoyed. Not only had Tighe's team won, but he had pitched beautifully. We also got to see my favorite ever professional baseball player, Mickey Hatcher.

Hatcher was sitting on a chair at field level watching the game. He was coaching a semi-pro team at that time. They would take the field for a game after we were done, and he was waiting for our game to conclude. When Tighe popped out of the dugout to point him out to me, I'm afraid I got so excited I might have embarrassed him. I yelled, "Hey, Mickey!" and waved. I think people were guessing I'd had heat stroke and thought I was at Disneyland talking to Mickey Mouse or something. Good grief, I never talk to celebrities. I guess my brain was fried.

I always felt that Hatcher embodied my convictions about sports being a balance between fun and effort. The more effort you make, the more fun you have and the better you do. If it becomes a chore, you don't do well. If you're having fun, you will be doing your best. And in Mickey's own words, "I didn't like to fail. I always believed that I was very competitive. You have to have that fighting mentality. . . . Even though I enjoyed it and had fun, I knew when the serious parts were.'' That sounds so much like what I was telling my kids. Mickey always played hard, and as a utility player, you never knew where on the field you would see him. He might be thrown in to pitch an inning, or he might be out in left field. He never said, "That's not my job." He was just glad to be playing.

So we packed up our car and headed home from Las Vegas after the final game, knowing that the World Series was too far away for us to drive to. It would be in Fargo, North Dakota, and buying plane tickets for the family would be out of the question. It seemed that the team would have to go without us. I was registered with a temp Service and looking for full time work, so hopefully money would start rolling in soon, but once it did, the time to do things like follow a team would no longer be there. That's the ultimate quandary. When we've had money to go places, we haven't had the time. We drove home, smelling of burn spray and baseball dust.

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