PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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Magic

You may not yet know of my finest hour as a baseball player, but let me tell you about my worst hour.

I had had some success as a Little Leaguer, which you probably already figured based on how I have maintained my sporting physique throughout the decades. I played on a team sponsored by Covino Brothers in the majors division of the East Syraucse, New York Little League. My skill back then was that I could judge and catch fly balls in the outfield. Sounds easy, I know, but many of my teammates were terrible at it. I wasn't a good hitter or a particularly good fielder, but most of the time I could judge where a fly ball was going to land and arrive there before it touched earth. My little league coach thus dubbed me "Pat the Magic Glove."

Not joking.

Call this the early- to mid-1970s, so maybe ten years after Peter Paul and Mary released Puff the Magic Dragon. It is only now that I realize that my skinny coach, who yelled at us bumbling fools in a British accent whilst guzzling milk straight from the waxed carton as a remedy for a stomach ulcer, might have been referencing that song when he dubbed me Pat the Magic Glove.

It is amazing how many Little Leaguers can't catch a fly ball in the outfield. They see the ball in the sky a hundred feet ahead and immediately run toward it, only to discover that it has a secret source of extra propulsion that causes it to sail right over their heads, pushing across four runs. I encountered this situation early in my Little League career enough times that I stopped running in and just let the ball come to me. Presto! I caught almost everything that was hit at me in left or center field.

So, they made me an infielder. I was, after all, Pat the Magic Glove.

Fielding screaming grounders that will knock out your teeth if the ball takes a bad hop and shagging lazy flies involve completely different skills. I much preferred being out there where the ball comes in on a noticeable arc most of the time. In the infield, especially on the left side, the ball came off the bat at 1,000 miles an hour from only 65 feet away. But like it or not, I was now an infielder.

One day, a kid from three houses down, Eddie Franz, who was playing on an opposing Little League team, hit a grounder to me at third base, which I fielded and threw across the diamond, hitting my sprinting neighbor square in the back. It must have stung something terrible because Eddie was in tears, thanks to my awful aim. This error got into my head, and when another ball came my way, I totally booted it.

From then on, I was incapable of fielding a ball or making an accurate throw in the infield. A short time later in that same game a ball was hit between me and the shortstop that I could easily have reached, but I pretended I couldn't get to it, knowing that they don't charge you with errors when you can't get to the ball. Best to let it go than have it bounce stupidly off the heel of my glove or have me throw the ball into the stands. I heard one of the parents holler, "The third basemen didn't even try to field it!"

I was exposed. No longer would anyone call me Pat the Magic Glove. 

I survived that experience and went on to play Babe Ruth ball, and later made the high school team. But never again was I put in the infield, to my great relief.

One day I'll tell you about my finest hour. 

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