Fresh cut grass, pepper being played, the pop of the catcher’s glove – overbearing bleacher parents that couldn’t catch a fly ball with a fisherman’s net. These are a just few of the sights and sounds that let you know baseball season has arrived.
There is a pacing and nuance to baseball unlike any other sport. It can feel like a leisurely stroll, marked with periodic wind sprints and the occasional Keystone Cops routine. It begins in spring, a time when hope is renewed. When that 8-22 losing record of last year is just a memory, but a memory nonetheless. Baseball allows for cordial conversation amongst players and spectators. On the diamond you can find out about the people you’re playing. I played catcher, and used to keep a conversational dialogue with the opponents I liked — one that would last through each at-bat, game, and season.
Baseball is a story telling event. I’d like to use this column to solicit and encourage readers to submit some of their baseball stories. Inspirational. Funny. Heartbreaking etc. Let me know if you are interested in having your story told in Manteca to a T’s weekly segment “Diamond Tales” ...and I will of course lead the way.
It was the second game of my freshman year. We were a football class, and come baseball season, we treated the season like it was a beer league softball squad. Oh we had a few hardcore baseball heads. But when your catcher is more concerned with chasing cheerleaders — it can turn the season from sport to bachelor party. We were led by Coach Todd Vick. A former stud baseball player in his day, his passion for the game belied his Johnny Carson coolness. He could turn from fiery ass chewer to flippant remark guy in the blink of a fastball.
I’d known Todd/Coach Vick since I was a child. (I use the slash between his name, because I was never really sure which to call him.) He played on my dad’s fast pitch softball team. I’d bat boy-ed and begged him for quarters to play pizza parlor arcade games since I was 6. He was Todd to me everywhere except for a MHS baseball game or practice. It made from some of the greatest banter as I shagged home plate while he hit infield practice.
We were playing Tokay High. The umpires hadn’t arrived, and the decision to allow one of the parents to call balls and strikes was made. That parent. My dad. It’s an odd feeling to hold a framed pitch you thought was a strike, only to have your old man shake it off and call a ball. And the score of 17-0 by the 4th inning is forever burned into my mind — mostly because we were on the southern end of that score.
I came to the plate in the 4th with swinging for the fences at the first pitch I saw. Why not right? We’d reached a football score at that point. I took a full cut at the first pitch I saw, but only managed to scull a slow spinning bleeder up the first base line. The ball was obviously going to stay foul, but the Tokay first baseman wasn’t fielding it yet — he was forcing me to sprint up the line. “How dare he”? I thought. And as I sprinted up the line and met him at the intersection of ball and glove, I did what most of us would do while losing 17-0 at home. I booted the ball into right field.
I then decided to compound this idiotic maneuver, by rounding first and heading to second. The right fielder not sure exactly what was happening made a throw — but I slid head first under the tag. Our dugout chuckled with delight as I hopped up and dusted myself off. But there were 2 people not chuckling at all. Todd/Coach Vick and my dad. “C’mon Coach that’s ridiculous....” — marveled the Tokay coach. He agreed, and threw his hands up as he made his way to home plate — “Yeah that’ll be enough...we’re done.”
This was going to be bad. I’d always fashioned myself after the Bad News Bears shortstop Tanner Boyle (mixed with a healthy dose of Eddie Haskell), and I was about to receive a severe tongue lashing for the persona I’d cultivated. Todd/Coach Vick laid into a group of kneeling 14 year olds like General George S. Patton reaming his troops. Mind you this was just the second game, and a group of parents unfamiliar with Todd/Coach Vick, and each other were gathered around. ...and General Patton didn’t let anybody down. “If you ever bleeping bleep bleep like a bunch of bleep bleeps again....!!!” It was epic and quite enjoyable up until the point he went full General Patten, and decided to grab one of his soldiers by the scruff of their jersey and give him what for. “Teicheira, If you ever pull something like that again I’ll....” — he said through red face and clenched teeth. Lets’s preface something: This wax the late 80’s, and players and parents alike had not become the group of softies they are today. And while a few parents stared mouths agape — most nodded in agreement in sort of a “...well that Teicheira kid does have a bad rep” The ass chewing broke. I was approached by friend John Coldren’s dad Jack. It was the first time we’d officially met. “Hi Mr. Coldren nice to meet you” I said in my best Eddie Haskell He just shook his head, “Oh boy, 4 more years of you.” (Little did he know that some 30 years later I’d still be hanging out in his kitchen on occasion.)
....and we haven’t even reached the bizarre part. Remember that fast pitch softball team I spoke of? Well guess what? I also played catcher for that team. Something I’m sure was a bit illegal at the time. (You had to be 16 to play fast pitch in Stockton at the time - and did I mention I’m playing high school baseball?!) Like I said, it was the 80’s.
File under “I” for Idiot...Finally got my Jeep Cherokee running after letting it become a spider resort for the last 7 months. Wednesday while attempting to sneak from the tractor to the nearest taco truck, I couldn’t get the gearshift button to depress. Damn the gremlins that have haunted this Jeep! Stuck in park, I tried to remove the cover. Certainly a farm boy of my ingenuity could toy with the linkage, and I’d be on my way. But the damn thing just wouldn’t listen!! Frustration and hunger being the mother of all rampaging lunatics, I did what any hungry man within arm’s reach of a hammer would do – Hulk Smash!! Soon after tossing the shattered remains aside, I found myself in Linkage Land, and realized I was a complete foreigner. Jiggle this, tug that, hammer hammer hammer! Nothing! . .My phone rang as I was mid Tasmanian Devil.
“We are heading to a new job site, bring your Jeep this way, and I’ll drive you back to move the tractor” — Richard Machado
“I’d love to, but this stupid piece of bleep, won’t bleeping go into gear – the bleeping button won’t depress!!” — Tasmanian Idiot
“Did you step on the brake first?!”.....File under “I” for Idiot.
Short Story of the Week: “Seth and I were shootin’ hoops out front and paused for a car to pass ... but he swerved to a halt instead. Dude proceeded to jump out, call for the ball, drain it from 20 feet, jump right back in his car, throw up a peace sign — and then speed away. It was kinda rad!” — Kristy Tribuzio
Water Cooler Question: What is your all-time favorite Manteca restaurant? (Send responses to cateicheira@hotmailcom)
And don’t forget there is a parade today downtown at noon. Let’s rally and show a little love for our State Champion Buff Hoopsters. #ForTheCity
“It’s now Where ya do, It’s What ya do”