My first ever encounter with Crack. It's funny, but quite seriously a problem where this picture was taken. This photo was from 2012, and I took it while on a car ride with my mother through the beautiful New York City. This wasn't just a normal day riding through the City however. We were either on our way to, or coming back from my baseball tournament of the week. During my childhood, from the age of ten up until my graduation from high school, I toughed through a grueling schedule starting in the winter, and usually culminating in a disappointing loss at the end of the fall season. My Summers did not offer me much other than baseball, and for a long time, I absolutely loved it. I was pretty good at it. But these tournaments, in the heart of NYC, proved to be some of the most competitive baseball I've ever witnessed. And I was a part of the show. Luckily for me, we had a Spanish-speaking coach, and his son along with another teammate or two, who would translate all of the sh*t talk that we were hearing. To the rest of us, we were all decent ballplayers, but we didn't understand a lick past what we learned whilst picking boogers in our mandatory sixth grade Spanish classes. The vile garbage that these kids were able to get away with saying, mind you these are also twelve year old kids, was just mind blowing. Had we spoken one phrase of theirs in English, we would have immediately been thrown out of the game, and possibly out of the tournament, or even worse, we could have been kicked from the team!
But there was actually a deeper significance, in my opinion, to the madness. As a twelve year old, imagine the horrors that you would have had to go through in order to have learned a phrase such as, "I'll f**k your mom and make her call me daddy". Not only that, but to not have access to the coaching that would dissuade that type of behavior. Now listen, baseball is a mind game, as is almost any sport. Just like in any sort of competition, any edge will be taken if it is allowed to be taken. Baseball players are notorious for pushing the boundaries of the rules of the game, and one of them was exemplified with my situation as a twelve year old. That being said, as long as I can remember, Baseball was supposed to represent "The Gentlemen's Game". That doesn't mean we need to change the sport to suit and tie wearing sleaze bags, but what it does mean, in my opinion, is that the game is supposed to be played with a baseline minimum of respect. Just like in life, I don't mind seeing anyone flaunt the money they've earned, or the achievements that they've accomplished, because they have genuinely worked their ass off to get there, or at a minimum went through the effort to fake it. This exact feeling was expressed in myself when a "twelve year old" who was 5'10 and had to weigh about 170 lbs, stepped up to the plate at this tournament. At the time, I was a pretty good pitcher, and I was confident in my abilities to get anyone out. But this kid would not give in, and I think he only took one ball, so he was swinging all the way. He fouled off a couple, and one of them was a missile sent foul down the first base line. The pitch that everyone was waiting for finally came on a 1-2 count, a cement mixer curveball that hung up like clothes on a rack right in the meat of the strike zone. That ball carried so fast out of the infield that I didn't even want too look back, but I was forced to by my inner conscience when I heard the pang of a car getting whipped by the baseball I held all of 8 seconds ago.
The celebration that ensued was hilarious. The kid jumped up and down, and he bat flipped towards his dugout. As he rounded the bases slowly, making sure to look me in the eye the whole way round, his teammates were chirping loudly. They made fun of everything I could imagine from my skin, to my height, my mom etc. During the trot home, I caught the glimpse of my pitching coach, a former minor league from the Boston Red Sox system who also happened to be our only coach who knew Spanish. He mouthed something along the lines of "F**k These F**king kids", and the fire was started in my gut. All I remember was reaching back for the hardest and filthiest pitches that I could muster, and walking back into that dugout utterly pissed off. The homerun was completely inconsequential, but the feeling inside of me wasn't. I felt completely dominated, and I wanted to just go home.
In reality it was just one game in the middle of summer during my middle school years, but in my head it resides as something much more. I miss the comradery that surrounds that baseball field. The "boys" mentality that picks you up when you're down, so long as you can pick yourself up off the bench. Get involved, and you'll be thrown into the fire, whether you like it or not. Crack is Wack kids, and make sure you don't take that lightly. Be safe, and have a blessed day.