By Travis Lazarczyk
If I had the game now, it would seem so antiquated. A hand-held electronic baseball game. A series of red lights blinked when you chose a pitch, Quickly for a fastball. Fast, then slow, for a changeup. If you pushed the button marked "curveball," a light just off the plate would blink as the pitch approached.
You pushed a button marked with a bat to swing. If you timed it right and the blinking bat lit up at the same time the light closest to the plate went off, a series of beeps and boops would let you know the result. A hit or an out.
In the early 1980s, hand held electronic baseball was a technological marvel, and you only needed two AA batteries to make the thing work. My dad and I played that thing for hours.
Once, when the lights blinked and the beeps signaled that I'd hit a home run, my father swore under his breath. I didn't know it was a swear until a half hour later, when I repeated the phrase.
"Don't say that," my dad said, trying not to laugh.
* * *
My dad coached youth baseball for two years before becoming an umpire. When he was behind the plate for games involving my team, when I stepped into the batter's box, my strike zone was chin to shoelaces.
One game, when my team's pitcher had finished his warm-up tosses, my dad stepped in front of the plate to brush it off. Only our pitcher hadn't finished his warmups, and with the attention span 11-year old boys sometimes have, let loose a perfect strike, without looking to see if his catcher was ready to receive the pitch.
Dad caught the pitch right in a spot nobody wants to catch a pitch. I spent much of the rest of the game at second base, my glove over my face to hide my laughter.
* * *
We played a lot of Whiffletree Home Run Derby. He'd have to hit the ball over the hedges which separated our yard from the neighbors'. My fence was pushed back each summer, marked with a Frisbee or another toy. I couldn't wait until I had to hit it over the hedges, too.
This is how a line drive swing is created. Even now, sometimes, when I play softball, I'm trying to hit it past an invisible Frisbee. Somewhere in left center field, there's an invisible hedge. You can't see it, but I do.
* * *
"We're going to the Super Bowl," I yelled. It was January, 1986, and the New England Patriots had just pummeled the Miami Dolphins in the Orange Bowl to win the AFC championship.
My dad laughed.
Fast forward 16 years, to early February 2002. Fast forward past that brutal loss to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, past the embarrassing Victor Kiam years, past the loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI, past the Pete Carroll years.
Dad laughed again, this time because he didn't see Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal. He hid in the bathroom.
"I was too nervous," he said.
* * *
My father is thinking about getting an iPad. He likes the idea of apps. He likes that you tap what you're looking for and it comes up. He likes that with this one thing, he can follow his favorite teams and get all his hometown news, no matter where he's living.
He knows there are game apps. He can play poker.
I wonder if there's an electronic baseball app. There has to be.
Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242
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