I have only played Baseball once. I have played Rounders, the old English cum European kid's game
the American one is based on, but not the New World version. At secondary school I played sports.
You had to. You had to be paraplegic to get out of playing some sort of game, winter and summer.
I opted for Football and Cricket, with the odd excursion into Tennis, Athletics and Swimming.
By Football I mean real Football which the ill educated call Soccer. The one you play with foot
and a ball, hence the name. None of your hands on varieties played with ellipsoids for me. I played
"The Great Game", the one played in every country in the world. But unfortunately I did not play
very well. The sports master summed me up as "Tenacious, but lacks judgement". What he meant was
I could not send the ball within yards of the intended target, but I was too dumb to stop trying.
In summer I played Cricket mainly because you spent half the game sitting on the grass waiting for
your turn to bat. That meant I could do a bit of reading, Got through quite a few books that way.
My father had played for his school and was hopeful I would do so for mine. He gave me lessons and
tips and encouragement. We spent a lot of time working on my competence with the bat particularly.
Feet position and movement, different strokes; all the usual stuff. I tried to be a "useful" player,
but my batting, in spite of the extra tuition, was woeful. I did all the right things but not at the
right time. In addition my bowling was dangerously inaccurate and my fielding less than adequate.
In spite of this I ended up as Vice Captain of the House team, all due to a dreadful mistake by
the sports master. You see there were two Brown's in the side. The other one was good. Always made
double figures in an afternoon match, served up a mean off spinner, and was very handy in slips.
My only advantage was I was in fifth year, and was the oldest boy. So when the scrap of paper was
handed to the master informing him that Brown was nominated as Vice Captain, he assumed it was me
and not the more deserving member of our tribe. Actually he was happy just to play, and even gave
me some coaching. Nice bloke.
So what has this to do with Baseball? Well, one day a couple of decades or more ago, I was at a
barbecue at a friend's farm in the North West and was invited to take part in the American game.
There was an exchange student from the States staying at this farm, a girl from the plains of Kansas.
She had brought her Softball gear, which was the same as Baseball stuff as far as we were concerned.
We set up a diamond in the hay paddock next to the farmhouse, using bales as markers for the bases.
One of the problems was the farm was in serious hill country, even by Tasmanian standards. So the
pitcher's head was about level with the batter's feet. Second base had to stand on a hay bale to
see any action. Outfield needed "over-the -horizon" radar. My turn came to bat. I grasped the
unfamiliar article and positioned it high behind my head as seen at the movies. The pitcher wound
up and let fly. It was a beauty. Fast and straight, but with one small problem. It was coming
directly for my toes. I should have let it through but instinct took over. I twisted my left wrist,
pushed my left elbow forward, advanced down the pitch, dipped by bending the right knee, swung the
bat down near vertically and connected. A perfect drive in that other, older game. The ball swept
over the pitcher's head at about Mach 1. The second base fell off his bale as it passed metres above.
The outfielder watched as it appeared over the crest and sailed through the blue and into the creek.
The onlookers clapped, some said "good shot sir!" and one indicated a six in the time honoured way
of The Oval, Lords, Old Trafford and the MCG. The lass from the US just stood with mouth agape. I
think she went home with an interesting story about how Tasmanians "play ball".
Frank Brown ©