I stepped out of the batter's box. Inhaled and exhaled. Stepped back in. Up on the plate. Ready for the breaking ball. The pitcher toed the rubber. I took my three short practice swings and settled in for his pitch. I turned on it and ripped it - foul. It shot outside the third base line. What a thrill. I hoped the plate appearance would last forever.
One pitch later, my patience in the lengthy at bat paid off with a walk. Each step down the immaculately groomed major league quality infield was a pleasure. The diamond at NBT Bank Stadium looks like a Field of Dreams from the stands, but playing on it, under the lights on a fresh summer's evening was enough to have me looking for Ray Kinsella or his friend "shoeless" Joe Jackson.
Our CNYCentral All-Star squad was invited into the baseball lair of the Syracuse Men's Senior Baseball League. We knew we were in trouble when they trotted out in neatly pressed uniforms and we needed to borrow a bat and ball.
Our concerns were well founded. These guys might have a little gray hair, but they can play the game the right way. They also came with the right attitude. They playfully ribbed each other. They showed compassion with our short comings. They hit sharply, fielded crisply and threw strikes from the mound.
I tried to remember when I last hit a baseball in any kind of game. It just might be thirty years ago. I remember playing a few games in the old MacArthur Stadium which stood in the parking lot of NBT. The rush of running out on the field tonight provided a shot of adrenalin early, but as the innings wore on the throws from short to first grew longer as did the run from home to first base.
In the end I made sharp contact on two ground balls to shortstop. The other at bat I walked. I had to excuse myself from the game to get back to do the news. If the dream was reality I would have never left the stadium. I would just keep playing until the rising sun took the place of the stadium lights.
Thanks to everyone who put the game together.
Any questions or comment please forward them to mattsmemo@CNYcentral.com. I may even use some of your thoughts on NBC 3 News at 5:00, the 10:00 News on CW6 or on CNYcentral.com.
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