The Backyard Base Path (part 1)

If some of y’all missed last week’s show, it showed me and Jacob working outside on baseball skills. Matteo’s segment was about diet and nutrition and how to live on 850 calories a day, and he lost another pound at his weigh-in. There was also a nice Veteran’s Day segment about Maya’s brother, who’s a Marine, and not a dude you’d want to mess with, believe me. He was also super nice the one time I met him, so I guess you don’t have to worry lol.

(Speaking of Veteran’s Day, y’all shouldn’t forget that Dad was a sergeant in the army and that I’m proud to have a father who served his country. Even though the country is a mess, Dad taught me to believe in the United States of America and the Constitution, which he always says is a lot bigger than any one president. Robert doesn’t want me writing anything political in the blog, so I’m not gonna say anything about the election. There’s nothing I really want to say about it anyway.)

Meanwhile, the moment I’ve been dreading with Jacob has come lol:

“Hunter,” he asked me last week while we were playing catch, “can you help me with basketball too? We’re not gonna be able to go swimming when it’s cold, and we can’t work on baseball skills all the time….”

“How about football instead?,” I said, hoping he’d drop basketball lol.

“Yeah…sure…football’s awesome. But, well, I could ask Dad and maybe we can get a basketball hoop set up and…”

“Ok cowboy, I gotta make a confession.”

“What’s that?”

“I can’t play basketball.”

“What do you mean? You…”

“Yeah, I know, I’m a jock and I should be able to…but I can’t. See, I’ve got no sense of rhythm, so I can’t dribble. I can’t dance, either,” I added.

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. But I was always too busy with baseball and football for it to matter. And I just said I had homework to do or something when people asked me to join in a basketball game. Honestly, I don’t even enjoy watching it, maybe because I suck at it so bad.”

“Oh.”

It’s kinda awful when an 11 year old who’s looked up to you suddenly is disappointed. But, hey, I never said I was a superhero.

But Jacob’s great at bouncing back.

“Ok,’ he said,” no basketball. I was never so great at it either. Maybe I have rhythm problems too. So how about football then? Mom’s afraid it’s a little rough for a kid my age…”

“Moms are like that,” I interjected.

“But it’ll be ok if it’s just us. Can you teach me to tackle?”

“Sure,” I said. Don’t forget that this third-string quarterback used to practice with the D-line.

“While we’re talking about things I want to do…”

“Yeah, man?”

“Can you teach me to slide? I never really learned in little league…and it looks like so much fun when they do it on TV.”

“It is fun,” I said. Matteo would probably hate it, but Jacob’s not the kind of kid who minds getting dirty. “But where can we do it? You need dirt to slide…and this place is all perfectly mown grass.”

“I know!” Jacob said. “Why don’t we build a baseball diamond? There’s plenty of room. Then we can have dirt to slide…and I can run my sprints for exactly 60’…and…”

“Whoa, cowboy!,” I said, interrupting him. “There’s no way your parents are gonna say we can build a baseball diamond in the backyard.”

“Even if it’s only little league size?”

“Even if it’s only little league size. On the other hand…”

I had an idea. It wasn’t a new idea, since I had it first when I was planning out my baseball resort, but I haven’t thought about it for a while.

“What is it, Hunter?”

“I don’t want you to get your hopes up, so I’m gonna have to talk to Sandy and your parents first. But they may go along with it. Meanwhile…”

There was something I’ve been wanting to try with Jacob. I took a few big steps back and threw him a knuckleball. Of course he couldn’t catch it, and he went running after it.

“How’d you do that?,” he asked me.

“Do what?”

“Make the ball do what it did, kinda move around so I couldn’t catch it?”

“You mean this?”

I threw him another knuckler.

“How are you doing that?,” he asked each time I threw him one. He was laughing rather than getting frustrated, or I’d have stopped.

“Trade secret,” I said.

I figured I’d show him sooner or later how to throw a knuckleball – it’s a good safe pitch for a little kid to throw since it doesn’t put a whole lot of strain on your arm – but for the moment I was gonna keep it as a magic trick. My nephews taught me that it’s fun to be able to amaze a kid every now and then.

All that happened last Tuesday, and Tuesdays mean Matteo in the gym. After I was done with him for the day, I took advantage of the pool house shower so I wouldn’t head into Sandy’s office all sweaty. I’ve discovered that Matteo cooperates a lot better in the gym if I’m doing his exercises along with him instead of just standing there and watching. So I’m getting a workout every Tuesday and Thursday. I could definitely use it, since, with El Tigre’s still closed, the closest I come to working out these days is a couple sessions a week with the bag in Keaton’s apartment.

“Yes, Hunter?,” Sandy said as I knocked on her doorjamb. She pivoted around in her chair and showed what I noticed was a lot of leg. A lot of very nice leg.

“I’ve got an idea. Well…Jacob had an idea and I’ve got a more practical version of it.”

“Tell tell,” she said.

“He wants to learn to slide, and to slide you need dirt. He wanted to build a baseball diamond” Sandy gave me a ‘not happening’ face “but I got to thinking, how about we build just one base path, like from 3rd base to home plate? It wouldn’t take up that much space, and there’s probably some corner of the yard here” it always felt weird calling that park they had out back a yard “where it wouldn’t be too visible.”

There were supposed to be several of those base paths in my baseball resort, exactly so people could practice sliding and baserunning without taking up a whole diamond.

“Would it be useful?”

“Actually it would. I mean, I can work with Jacob without it, but, like I said, it would be good for sliding…and it would also be good for baserunning, since we could make it exactly 60’ long and the boys can get the feeling of how far it is between bases. I mean, it would be a super fancy thing to have, but, well…we’re on TV, and it doesn’t seem like they spare expense on things like that a lot of the time…I reckon…”

“What’s it going to take?”

It just so happens that I know a thing or two about building a baseball field. Between my sophomore and junior years in high school they overhauled the diamond and the whole team got to observe the process and help with upkeep. We also had a whole class in baseball camp on it.

“It’s more than dumping a bunch of dirt on the ground,” I explained. “You need the right kind of dirt, in the first place, but there are places you can order it from. It’s called infield mix. You probably should talk to an expert if you want to do it right.” Setting up proper drainage is essential. “But the work for a 60’ base path won’t be that bad. Depending on where we put it there’ll probably be sprinklers to relocate…”

“That’s okay. Pancho and his crew do that all thee time,” Sandy said.

“And we’ll need a base and a plate and anchors and shit. But,” I said, getting what seemed like a brilliant idea, “Jacob could help with the upkeep. It’d teach him a little responsibility, although the gardeners might have to help too.” Ball fields need to be watered pretty regularly. I mean, major league fields require a ton of maintenance, but they also manufacture infield mixes that don’t require people to work on it for hours every day.

“Can you put together a proposal that I can show to Maya and Robert? It is their house, after all. Just a few pages explaining roughly what you want would be necessary to build it.”

So I went home and wrote out my proposal for the base path in the backyard at the Sharpman house. The last proposal I wrote was for my baseball resort in college, so I was a little out of practice…although y’all know that I don’t usually have a whole lot of trouble writing or we wouldn’t be getting on the 300th blog post here.

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