Growing up and into college, I played baseball. By the time I was 13 or 14 baseball, or something related to baseball training, was a daily thing for me. Even when I was playing other sports, I was doing it because I wanted to be better at baseball. As a youngster, I was slow, had a below average throwing arm, but I was tall, could field a groundball, and my head was a large enough target for other kids with better arms to aim at from across the field. That made me PERFECT for first base. I played that position from the age of 8 all the way to the middle of my 14 year old Senior Little League season.
Then it happened. Justin Wyatt, the catcher on my team, an uncoordinated but bullheaded 15 year old with absolutely no real athletic ability aside from being able to get smacked by baseballs without crying broke his leg on a play at the plate.
I don’t remember why, but I volunteered to take over the catching duties for the remainder of the season. Catcher became my primary position from that point forward until the day I stopped playing. Something about being involved on every pitch was a big part of why I wanted to catch, but my main reason was probably because I thought wearing the gear, also known as “the tools of ignorance”, was cool.
Not long after I began catching, I saw an old acquaintance of my grandfather’s who had played semi-pro baseball like 200 years ago. We chatted, he said,
“So I hear you’re a ballplayer?”
“I hear you play first base. Right?” he said
“Yeah, but I think I want to be a catcher now.” I said
“Heh, first basemen last longer.”
Those words rolled off of my 14 or 15 year old back. I caught hundreds of games after that day, but somehow that old man’s words stayed with me.
“First basemen last longer.”
When you’re a kid, pain is something you feel occasionally, like when you fall off of your bike, get stung by a bee, hit with a ball, or you inadvertently touch something hot. When you are a kid, pain isn’t generally something you wake up with everyday. Squatting behind the plate for hours on end in 100 degree heat never phased me back then, but I don’t pop up out of a crouch as fast as I did back then. On rainy days my right shoulder reminds me of all those throws down to second base. When I run, my feet and ankles remind me for the first half mile or so of all the foul balls and plays at the plate along with hours of holding me up that they took in my baseball days.
Some pain is a good reminder. I’ve learned to listen to my body. I didn’t have the patience for such things just five years ago, but now, I listen and I adjust accordingly. Right now, as I’ve bumped up my mileage I’ve noticed a few different aches and pains that weren’t there before I started running. I call this “good pain”. This pain reminds me not to go to fast and to allow for rest and recovery. It also reaffirms that I did something besides sitting yesterday or the day before. While I may be a newbie runner, I’m not a newbie athlete, so I won’t let a little pain here and there freak me out. I bask in it, just so long as I can manage it.
That said, if your kid wants to be a baseball player, be sure to remind them time and time again that, “First baseman last longer” as do punters, point guards, people that don’t play hockey, and public address announcers.