We bought a Roku for our TV. I’ll admit, until this morning I thought a Roku was a Japanese three-phrase poem that grade-school children were forced to write at gunpoint.
The Roku is actually a small device that plugs into your television and gives you TV service via the internet. A neighborhood kid named Tyler helped me hook it up because I am technologically challenged.
Tyler is not yet twelve, but he is your all-American preteen, which means he knows everything about technology and will likely be rich one day.
In no time, Tyler had it running and we were watching a spring training baseball game.
The Braves and the Rays were tied. Tyler and I watched in silence for a few minutes. Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a home run. People on TV cheered. I cheered.
Tyler looked like he didn’t understand what he was watching.
“How do you keep score in baseball?” Tyler finally asked.
And this broke my heart.
In my childhood home, there was no clear division between baseball and the red letters in the Bible. We talked baseball on Sunday mornings, and we talked church during Saturday night ball games.
As fate would have it, there were two baseball gloves on my bookshelf. My wife keeps them around as decoration, to lend a masculine feel to our living room. Today, the mitts served another purpose.
The smallest of the two gloves was my old Little Leaguer. My father bought it for me when I was in second grade. I will never forget that day. Daddy took me into a store, we tried on gloves until we found the right one.
That night, my father showed me how to oil it with bacon grease.
“Grease it up good,” he told me. “And it’ll last for the rest of your life.”
To this day, I cannot smell bacon grease without thinking about Walter Perry Johnson, Bob Feller, or Greg Maddux.
Tyler and I went into my front yard and tossed a ball. I gave a few pointers. Soon, he was throwing like a pro.
Baseball is not hard. The game is embedded within the DNA of all Americans. Deer know when it’s rutting season; salmon know how to swim upstream; birds know to fly south; a young woman knows how to mother a child; a cradle Episcopalian has inherent knowledge on how to spell “Jack Daniels.” Children know baseball.
After a few minutes, Tyler and I were playing catch like he’d been born with a glove on his hand.
My early days were spent playing catch with my father. Nearly every summer night you could find us outside exercising our shoulders among a stadium of crickets, bullfrogs, and cicadas.
When Tyler threw the ball, it all came back to me. I had memories of national anthems, and Cracker Jacks boxes, and gloves that smelled like pork fat. And the music of a good game of catch.
And I’ve always thought that the rhythm of playing catch feels like a slow waltz.
Slap. Wind-up. Throw.
Slap. Wind-up. Throw.
One, two, three.
One, two, three.
My father carried our gloves everywhere. He kept them in his truck toolbox, just in case we needed them. I remember once, his truck broke down at the supermarket. We played catch on the grocery store lawn while we waited for his friend Bill to give us a ride.
Tyler and I played until his cheeks were rosy. He was breathing heavy. My shoulder felt like someone had abused me with a nightstick.
Tyler inspected the glove. “This thing looks really, really old.”
“It’s not that old,” I said.
“Really? It looks like an antique.”
“That’s not funny.”
“It fits kinda small, can I try yours?”
I gave him the glove I was wearing—a mitt that used to belong to my father’s sack of Little League surplus gear. Daddy would bring a duffle bag of extra ball gloves to ball practice in case a boy forgot his. He would gladly give a mitt to any child who wanted one.
Tyler tried the glove on. “This fits pretty good,” he said.
We were about to continue playing, but the sound of distant hollering interrupted us.
“That’s my mom,” Tyler said. “I gotta go, she’s making spaghetti tonight.”
And a boy must never miss spaghetti night.
Tyler returned the glove, then bolted for home. Before he got too far, I called his name. He stopped. I thanked him for his help, then tossed him the glove. I told him to keep it.
“Really?” he said. “Thanks. What do I do with it?”
“Grease it up good,” I said. “And it’ll last for the rest of your life.”
Sandi in FL. - March 25, 2019 6:57 am
This sweet story caused me to time-trip to the days when my dear Daddy used to play catch in our yard with my only brother. I wondered way back then if it was a rite of passage in a boy’s childhood to learn to pitch, catch and grease a baseball glove.
Karen - March 25, 2019 8:12 am
I love this piece. I can smell the gloves, hear the ball whizzing, and feel the leather. Baseball was not a part of my life, but your writing allows me to understand how it was part of yours. Thank you.
Debbie Phillips Hughett - March 25, 2019 11:13 am
Beautiful. If you’ve not been already, may I recommend a trip to Cooper’s Town?
Amy Morissette - March 25, 2019 11:29 am
Love this story!
Sherry - March 25, 2019 12:15 pm
Opening Day is Thursday for the Rangers…all is well!!!
Phillip Saunders. - March 25, 2019 12:45 pm
Thanks for being a friend to Tyler. He helped you, but you helped him more by introducing him to the wonderful world of baseball and giving him your treasured glove. Hopefully, he will follow your instruction and “grease it up good.” You showed him something even more important, though – your friendship. I see love abounding in you, Sean. That is a special and blessed gift from God, and you are using it to your fullest. Yes, technology may make Tyler materially wealthy, but baseball and friendships will make him rich in even better ways.
Jess in Athens, GA - March 25, 2019 1:35 pm
Sean, you wrote that you’re technological challenged and eleven-year old Tyler helped you. Shucks, I’ve been depending on my grandson from the time he was eight-years old to help me. He’s now thirteen and he just came back from a trip to some school function in Los Angles, California, where kids from all over were showing various electronic projects they worked on…at least that’s what I think it was. Him and a friend developed a small security camera…but they didn’t win any prize, but it was a wonderful experience for him. As for baseball, when I was a kid and tried out for a little league team I had to borrow a glove from a friend. Naturally someone had to pick me for a team, but I was a no-show….too embarrassed to play since I didn’t have a glove of my own.
Cathy Moss - March 25, 2019 1:40 pm
Are you trying to make a 70 yr old woman weep her way into the day? For heavens sake, Sean! Ian trying to type with tears rolling down my face and it is not a pretty sight. Your heart is so big and I just want to tell you that you make all your readers want to be better people. God has given you a talent and you are using it to the max. You will have it the rest of your life. ❤️??
Edna B. - March 25, 2019 1:42 pm
I think you made a really nice dent in Tyler’s memories. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.
Kristine Wehrheim - March 25, 2019 2:15 pm
That was really sweet!
Debbie Blount - March 25, 2019 3:02 pm
I hope you never stop writing these wonderful articles. I must admit, I read my daily Sean of the South before I do my Bible study in the morning. It somehow prepares me for God’s word. Back in my youth, I would have called it Good Vibrations. Thank you.
Linda Moon - March 25, 2019 3:47 pm
Baseball, spaghetti, and (the only thing missing) — apple pie!!! “It don’t” get any better than this story, Sean.
Someone very precious to me played Little League Baseball. His dad and his future father-in-law- were his coaches. Memories and old baseball equipment fill our home and hearts!
kyra bowman - March 25, 2019 4:00 pm
First, I am not a big sport’s fan but I do love baseball. It is poetry, ballet, exquisite timing and joy all rolled into one. (Sorry to say that my dad was a sport’s writer and I still did not love all sports! What an ungrateful daughter!) I think Roger Angell is the best baseball writer on the planet. And pretty much one of my favorite writers of all times.
But today…today… Sean, you are the best. I could see it, feel it and smell it–all the games I have seen– when you shared this story. Please find Tyler and teach him some more! He has plenty of time to get rich financially when he grows up. This is a totally different (and better) kind of rich! Thank you!
Clark Hining - March 25, 2019 4:52 pm
Mary - March 25, 2019 5:29 pm
That boy needs a “daddy!” Glad you were there to fill in!
Charaleen Wright - March 25, 2019 6:03 pm
George T. Jacoby - March 25, 2019 7:48 pm
You made me smell my Marty Marion “Mister Shortstop” Rawlings 600 glove – must have been an eye irritant, made them water…
Shelton A. - March 25, 2019 8:35 pm
Teaching a tweenager how to play catch-that’s outstanding. Good on ya, Sean!
Jack Darnell - March 25, 2019 10:51 pm
No matter how technically adept the kids are, they still need to know the great feeling of ‘Pitch’ or catch’. I moved around some. One town the boys called it Pitch and another catch. I still am amazed how we could play ‘catch’ for hours……
Sherry & jack
Melanie - March 26, 2019 1:34 am
You really gave him your glove?! Wow ❤️????
unkle Kenny - April 23, 2019 12:17 pm
I have a theory that you only get to keep what you give away .You can’t take it with you but some one else can keep it alive,and the story of how they got it will out last you. Be generous.
Debbie Shiflett - April 23, 2019 12:42 pm
I’m not sure how long you’ve known Tyler, but it sounds like the beginning of a beautiful friendship! You may need to buy you another man sized mit “grease it up good” and put it back on the shelf. There’s a bunch of summer evenings ahead perfect for playing catch.
This article painted a beautiful picture. Only gifted writers can do that and you do it consistently. Thank you Sean.
Sam Seetin - April 25, 2019 4:51 pm
After the KC Royals beat the STL Cardinals during the I-70 World Series, your dad graciously sent me a used grimy Royal’s baseball cap with a stain most likely bacon grease purchase at a yard sale as a runner prizes for my teams loss. I kept it for years before the dog smelled bacon and got it.
Joe Patterson - July 30, 2020 2:56 pm
Beautiful story I had the privilege of having three daughters.I love them all,but my last one played softball and we had a blast .She played until she graduated from high school and I coached her which was put joy.Your story reminded me of a gift I gave one of my players whose glove was way to small .I bought her one at local sporting goods store and swapped with her at the next practice.i hope she still has it or has passed it on.