by Matthew Arnold Stern
My first entry in a Tall Tales contest won at the Area F-4 contest in September 2007.
I love baseball. The problem is that I was never a good player. I was such a bad batter that I had a negative batting average. Charlie Brown could have struck me out.
But there was a time that I helped my team win a baseball championship. It was when I was nine years old, and I was in a Cub Scout baseball tournament in Reseda, California. That was where I grew up in Los Angeles.
Because I was such a poor baseball player, my coach kept putting me in the same outfield position: Left field. It was a position that we liked to call “left out.” That was because no one ever hit to left field. A player can spend a lot of time in left field doing nothing. I usually spent the time doing my homework.
If a ball was hit to left field, the center fielder – who was the good outfielder – would run right in front of me and say, “I got it.”
My team made it to the championship game. It was 6–5 in the last inning. Two down. We were one out away from taking home the trophy. That’s when the opposing team brought out their pinch hitter, Brutus Grendel.
Brutus was nine years old, but he was 7′ 4″ and weighed 470 pounds. We checked his birth certificate. It said he was born next door to a Nevada nuclear test site.
Brutus didn’t bring his own bat. Instead, he uprooted a tree and gnawed off the branches. As he did, a squirrel fell out of the tree. So, Brutus grabbed the squirrel and popped it in his mouth! It was his afternoon snack. “Mmmm,” he said. “Fuzzy, crunchy, go-o-o-d!”
Brutus lumbered over to the plate. Each time he tapped his bat, it registered 3.6 on the Richter scale. Our pitcher served up a high, hanging fastball, and Brutus whacked it – to left field!
I turned to my center fielder. He folded his arms and said, “You’re on your own, Stern! I’m not gonna get killed goin’ after that ball!”
So, I knew it was up to me to make the play. I went back, back, back. I was in North Hollywood before the ball started to arc. I went back, back, back. I don’t know whether it was fear or pure reflex, but I held up my glove and – pop – made the catch!
Unfortunately, the ball went through my glove and got embedded in my palm. It took surgeons six hours to remove it.
I did learn a valuable lesson, and it’s a reason why I love baseball so much. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the best player on the team or the worst player. Anyone can be a hero, and everyone can make a difference.