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Worldwide Ace » How to Be a Loser – Part I

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How to Be a Loser – Part I

24 August, 2013 (16:21) | Growing Up, Sports

The last game of my high school lacrosse career, the prolific senior day when every senior is supposed to get a chance to showcase their skills, I didn’t step foot on the field.

I love sports. I loved them as a kid growing up and I love them now. I’ve written odes to sports, sang songs about sports, played just about every sport no matter how poorly I did it, and enjoyed every moment.

Lacrosse wasn’t my first love. It wasn’t even my second or third love. It was a sport I ended up playing more out of stubbornness and overconfidence than anything else. My first love was baseball. From the time my father cradled me in the stands at an Oakland A’s game, I was smitten. I loved the arc of the ball, the spin and curve of the laces, the way it felt in my hand. I loved the smell of leather, the slow careful tick of numbers, the way failure was embraced. I loved the hot summer days, the sound of a bat making contact, the crunch of the grass beneath my cleats. I loved the poetry, the language, the lyricism of the announcers. I loved the way a picture was painted on the radio, the steady march of heroes through history, the way baseball, unlike any other sport, was affected by major events like Sandy Koufax on Yom Kippur and Ted Williams during World War II.

In little league, I was a proud all-star catcher one season and snubbed as an all-star another because my coach didn’t want kids to argue about who deserved to go. I was proud when my teammates argued for my inclusion despite that. I refused metal bats as impure, carrying a heavy wooden bat with me instead. I learned how to throw and grip different pitches despite not being a pitcher and my coach telling me I’d mess up my arm. In middle school, I was the second best power hitter on the team. I could pitch scoreless innings and throw unwavering knuckleballs. I broke and fixed my backyard pitch-back multiple time, and broke and paid for windows multiple times too. By the time my freshman year of high school happened, I wanted nothing more than to be out on a diamond where I could run and throw and daydream hazy summer afternoons away.

But Boston University Academy was too small to field a baseball team. My academics had already thwarted my playing on the basketball team. And though they let me try out, when I was drafted in my hopeful final year of little league, I was told I was 27 days too old to play. The summer after my freshman year was the first summer I hadn’t played baseball.

In some ways, I considered it a blessing to transfer to Brookline High for my sophomore year. And in the spring, when baseball tryouts happened, I made sure I was the last kid to leave every single day. I knew I wasn’t best hitter in the group, but I was good enough to at least earn a bench spot.

Yet a funny thing happened on my way to making the team. I got cut. Because I hadn’t played my freshman year. Only two of us were cut: Saul, a dumpy blond boy who couldn’t throw the ball across the diamond, and me.

“I don’t understand,” I told the coach.

“Everyone else played last year. They earned the right to come back. We just don’t have enough spots to go around.”

“But I’m a better hitter than half of them. I’m a better fielder than half of them. I know I’m not fast,” I argued, “but I’ve been the hardest worker here.”

The coach just shrugged at me. Our assistant coach, who had spent an extra hour in the batting cages with me each day, stayed.

“If you were a freshman, there would be a spot on the freshman squad for you,” he said, setting up the pitching machine for me to take a few angry farewell swings. “But JV and Varsity has three grades of players trying out, and coach wants the consistency of the freshmen who played last year.”

I know I was overconfident in my skills, and the coaches were likely just trying to let me down easy, but I fumed for days over the decision.

“Screw them,” my friend Oolij told me. “Come play lax. You’ve played before, right?”

“Yeah,” I replied, remembering the summers at camp when I was thrown into goal since no one else would play. “But I don’t love it like I love baseball.”

“It’s better than not playing anything, right?”

BHS boasted a rock-star goalie on Varsity. He had barely missed being all-state as a junior. But he didn’t want to play goal. He was too athletic, too bored. He wanted to play midfield. So despite my misgivings, I joined the team, mentioned I had played goal before but it had been years, and found myself platooning as the Varsity goalie my first day on the team.

To be Continued in
How to Be a Loser – Part II

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  • Jess Newman

    Prolific means “profusely productive or fruitful” or “producing offspring, young, fruit, etc.” I’m not sure what you intended to write, but I’m guessing that your final game didn’t result in the production of many offspring on your part.

    Sincerely,
    The Mad Editor What Edits At Midnight

  • Your understanding of dictionary apps is profound and deep. Prolific, in this sense, is storied. Just as a prolific writer writes a great deal, a prolific sports star produces many great games, and a prolific musician creates many musical works, a prolific event creates many memories, tales, or even imitators. In this sense (which is the more common usage of definition #1 than your literal interpretation), senior day was, indeed, prolific, though I couldn’t say if our was simply one of those knock-off off-spring or the progenitor of them all.