One cast from glory

"I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall
Yes it sure looks good to me."

Sure Looks Good To Me
Alicia Keys

Dateline: October Championships

The pennant banners are in the trees.

Nature shouts Championship Month with its leaves.

The Fall belongs to heros.

Record books tell you, October is forever.

Ladies of the WBT Championship, you need to know just one thing, you are one cast from glory.

Destiny rides on your line.

"I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall ... "

As you prepare to take to the hallowed ground that is the championship field I want you to read the first words I ever wrote for mass-public consumption:

"I will listen to coach."

I wrote those words ... 500 times!

On a blackboard.

For the mass market readership of my baseball team.

Coach sat in the front row jammed into a tiny classroom seat.

Coach kept count ... 1, 2, 3 ... 168 ... 273 ... 319 ...

Coach was going to sit there counting until I wrote for the 500th time:

"I will listen to coach."

So was my baseball team.

No one in the room was happy, and I was writing slow. You could see my anger in the dust. By sentence 213, I had already gone through three pieces of chalk.

The outfield guys were searching other classrooms for more of the white stuff.

This night, there would be a lesson in Little League.

No one was allowed to change. I stood in front of a sea of my team. Most just sat there chewing the leather string on their baseball gloves, some pretended to look out the school windows at night, the pitchers, being you know, PITCHERS, never took their eyes off me ... for three of those guys it was the most baseball they had done in a month.

My cleats kept slipping on the black and white tile floor, one knee and one hand dirty from digging balls out of the dirt at shortstop, my cheeks caked with dust and two streaks of dried up tears.

"That's 4-4-7, Barone. That's 4-4-8. Barone ... "

"I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall."

I don't remember what inning it was.

I will never forget the count.

3 and 0.

I looked over to the third base coach for the sign.

Through the secret sign language of baseball that consisted of scratching, pulling, twisting, hat moving, mouth wiping, and nose tweaking, this is the sign he sent me.


Within moments of that sign, the pitcher, all 4 feet 5 of him, winds up and throws one chest high on me and straight down the magic tunnel that leads to the catcher's mitt.

And I swing.



"Strike One!"

Before the ball is back in the pitcher's glove, Coach is up off the bench, mid-spit, jumping up and down on the scorebook, kicking the waist high chainlink fence in front of him ... and then he runs from out behind the fence, past the end of the bench, and in clear view of the third base coach starts acting like a chicken in an overzealous delivery of the next sign.

I'm pretty much just looking down at the plate. And chewing bubble gum.

The pitcher snaps the ball into his mitt.

I tap the plate with the bat, lift it up and let it rest on my right shoulder, push up my batter's helmet, turn my head left for the next sign.

In the third base coaches box I see this adult doing an over-exaggerated version of the chicken dance from the bench. And I get this sign:


The pitcher turns his head from the dancing coach, grinds the ball in his glove, and once again sends it chest high my way.

And I swing.


"Strike Two."

After I got untwisted from the power of my miss, I look over to the bench to see the scorebook heading into the parking lot and Coach trying to pull his baseball cap apart while flinging a handful of bats somewhere in the direction of short left field.

Coach then kicks three or four balls down the sidewalk in the direction of the snack bar and walks over to pretty much first base and forgoes the baseball sign language all together as he shouts to the third base coach, who also happens to be without his baseball cap:


Third base coach just turns and looks at me.

I shake my head, yes.

The pitcher kid looks over at his coach in the kid look that says, "I have no idea what you adults are doing but what the hell should I do."

The other coach just cocks his head my way in the universal sign that says, "Pitch."

So the kid on the mound does a windup that reaches back to his ancestors and throws the kind of heat he will dream about until he discovers girls.

And I swing.

A swing so hard I loosen the filling in my back tooth, a swing so hard that my cup ends up on my thigh, a swing so hard I see the catcher's face on my first revolution.


"Strike Three ... yer out."

I sat alone on the bus home. I stood alone at the blackboad.

"... 4-9-8, Barone ... "

I tasted salt and dust in my mouth once again ...

"... 4-9-9, Barone ... "

And Ladies of the WBT Championship, at sentence number 500, I wrote this:

"I will listen to coach ... but I will NEVER just stand there."

"I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall."

The next three games, I never left the bench.

I was told once that there was no need for me to "bother bringing my glove."

I brought it every game. I would chew the leather string while never taking my eyes off the coach.

I rode my bicycle to Lincoln Park in Tonawanda, N.Y., for every practice. I dressed for every game. I bought bubble gum. I spit when the coach spit. When he sat, I sat right next to him.

I came to play.

Finally I did.

And at some point, I had to bat.

As I stood at the plate, almost every on the bench was staring at me ... except, Coach.

Coach had his baseball cap bill pulled so far down it almost rested on his chin. He was pulverizing whatever was in his mouth.

With the bat I tapped the plate, the sides of both my cleats, flung my shoulders back twice, twisted my neck both ways, and before stepping into the batter's box, I turned and faced the third base coach.

And as he looked to the bench, I never took my eyes off of him.

Again he started the chicken dance, and I put one foot in the box as he ended the sign ... his right fist thumb up in front of his body, the left fist, also clenched with the thumb up came to rest on top of the right ... then standing there hands clenched as if holding a bat, he turned his head as a batter would do looking for the pitch. The sign:


And I did.

And ladies, you need to do so as well.

Life is too short to just stand there.

Championships are made to be chased.

On these cold, clear, October days ... you have to Swing Away.

Swing for the fences.

You are one cast from glory.

Swing for it all.

" ... Yes it sure looks good to me."

See you soon.

— db

Don Barone is an award-winning outdoors writer and a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the Outdoor Writers Guild of the U.K. You can reach db at