The earliest object of my desire was a Louisville Slugger. I was nine years old and we lived across the street from a large field. At the edge of the field was a department store called Shultz’s. Each week I’d get permission to walk there by myself where I’d hole up in the sporting goods aisle looking at a wooden bat that cost ten dollars. I wanted it. Babe Ruth used one and that meant I could knock the ball out of any yard with the same bat- as long as it was wooden. Historical accuracy and all.
I became a baseball and Detroit Tigers fan after I saw the movie Tiger Town. I once lived in Detroit, although I was too young to remember it, which meant I had a history with the team. By the time I saw the Slugger I was a diehard Cubs fan. It came about because I liked Chicago better than Detroit, my best friend was a Cubs fan, and they had Mark Grace. He was cute even by nine-year old standards.
One day some family friends came to visit. They gave me and my sisters each a ten-dollar bill. The second that cash met my hand I was out the door. I couldn’t wait to get back and hit my first home run. I’ve never felt the same thrill of ownership as I did with that bat. It fit perfectly and swung like a dream except there was a problem I hadn’t anticipated. No one would play baseball with me. I ended up playing pitcher and hitter simultaneously but at least I hit pretty well; I always got the pitch I wanted.
We moved my 14th year and I couldn’t be involved in theatre. Fortunately the new town had a softball league and I joined immediately. I played center field and my first game I hit the long-anticipated home run. It felt exactly as I imagined it would, plus I got a free banana split. I wasn’t a great player but I did have great moments and I won the Most Improved Player award at the end of the season.
I only had that one summer to play ball. I went back to performing, bought the Field of Dreams soundtrack, and played catch with the kids I babysat. After college I moved to Boston, trading team loyalty for only the third time in my life. I lost my Slugger in the move and still think about where it might have gone.
Yet last night another dream came true for this hopeless romantic. I took a victory lap around my coffee table while neighbors cheered on the street and car horns answered back. I cried because I saw raw, gutsy, baseball history played in my lifetime and in my town. I’m not watching it on a movie; I’m not imagining it in my yard. It’s really happening and it reminds me of the lonely kid coveting a department store bat. It won’t change the world, or even my life, but it means that anything is possible.