Lost Journal: Quest for the Four-bounce Homer

Lost Journal entry: April 21, 1978 (age 9)

To hit a home run in the St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary school parking lot, the ball has to hit or go over the fence that borders the parish convent. The tennis balls we use have probably frightened a nun or two by striking their windows, but at least they haven’t broken through, like actual baseballs would.

My brother, Dan, and his fellow fourth-graders, Jimmy Scott and Teresa “Pee Wee” McKinney, are the only ones among our informal group who can hit a real home run.  This fact has been demoralizing to the rest of the players, so a new rule was put in place earlier this summer.  That rule stated that if the ball hit the fence in three bounces or less, it counted as a home run.  This allowed Amy Coutant to join her classmates in the swatters club. Even our contingent of second-graders has been able to round all the bases at least once.  I have cheered Marisa Scott, Timmy McKinney, Steve Coutant, and Mike McNally as each has grabbed a moment of glory.

As the only third-grader in the group, it has been a bit disheartening to watch these younger players achieve something that I seemingly can’t.  In addition to being uncoordinated, I have bad eyes.  My eyeglasses correct my extreme nearsightedness, but they do nothing to correct a problem I was born with called nystagmus.  Nystagmus is a neuro-muscular defect that causes my eyes to twitch back and forth, as though I am in constant dream state.  Perhaps I am, because every athletic activity I’ve ever engaged in has felt like a nightmare.

Today, I followed up two strikeouts with an inning-ending pop-up to Pee Wee.  I threw the bat in frustration, narrowly missing Dan as he headed in from left field.  Dan huddled for a minute with his fellow elders, Pee Wee and Amy, and then made an announcement.  “Starting today, any ball that hits the fence in FOUR bounces or less is a home run.”

On my next at-bat, both teams seemed to be rooting for me.  I whiffed on my first two swings.  As I tapped the wood of the bat on the asphalt, I reminded myself that my favorite pro baseball player, Joe Rudi, was known for both striking out and hitting homers.  I tried to approximate Joe’s batting crouch, but only succeeded in looking like I was bracing myself for the blast of a fire hose.  Somehow, my third swing connected.  I tried to follow the ball’s path into the outfield, but I couldn’t see that far away.  In left field, Dan counted the bounces before we all heard the metal fence shake.  After the shortest of pauses, Dan yelled, “It’s good!”

I barely touched the ground as I rounded the bases, and both teams were waiting for me at home plate.  Amidst the cheers and high-fives, I heard someone say, “Dan, how many bounces was it?”  Dan didn’t respond – he was too busy lifting me onto his shoulders.

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Tim Mollen
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