The last home run

August 17, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Keith Schell

It was late summer 2008. I was a first baseman/rover/occasional pitcher playing in a local co-ed slow-pitch league in the city where I was working.  

Our team had an early Thursday evening game that week on a diamond behind a local public school. The diamond was the largest ballfield in the entire league at that time. The outfield seemed to stretch for miles before you reached the fence.

Back when I was young and strong and playing hometown men’s slow-pitch ball in my twenties, I had enough power when I came up to the plate to be respectable. Outfielders couldn’t move in when I was at bat. I was a pretty decent hitter and a legend in my own mind.  

But as I got older, fatter and slower, I had to face the facts. My athletic situation began to change, and I had to re-think my approach to hitting and adjust my expectations to suit. 

When I was in my twenties, if I put the ball over the fence for a home run, I was happy. 

But these days, with reality setting in and me pushing fifty at the time, if I put the ball over the infield for a single, I was happy!  

While both teams were ‘in it to win it,’ our Co-ed league games that summer was usually close and always enjoyable. And because of that, our game that night was its usual close and enjoyable affair. 

The bases were loaded when I came up halfway through the game. Because I knew my power days were long gone, my goal was to get my usual single, advance the runners, and keep the line moving. 

I walked up to the plate and dug in, and waited for the pitch. I got a good pitch to hit and made good contact. I put the ball over the second base person and into the gap. I got my usual single, or so I thought. 

But something happened. 

The ball got into the gap between the outfielders and kept rolling! The outfielders started chasing it, and because of the vast size of the outfield, all of a sudden, I realized I had an extra-base hit! I motored around first base and headed towards second. 

And the ball kept rolling. 

As I headed towards second, and could hear my third base coach, he was telling me to keep going. So I chugged around second base and headed towards third. 

And the ball kept rolling. 

As I headed towards third, my third base coach was waving me through. I couldn’t see what was happening in the field behind me, but because a good ballplayer always listens to his coach, I kept going. 

As I huffed and puffed and rumbled around third, the outfielders finally got the ball and were getting it into the infield. There was going to be a play at the plate. It was going to be close.

And the instant after I gasped across home plate, I heard the ball rattling around on the backstop behind me! I was safe! I had just made it. 

As I wheezed back to the bench, I was met by the congratulations of my co-ed teammates. “Good shot, Keith!” “Way to go, Keith!” and so forth. I wanted to say “Thank You,” but I couldn’t respond at that moment because I was too busy gasping for air! 

As I sat down on the bench to catch my breath, I remember thinking that I wished I could have just trotted around the bases and savoured it just one last time like in my younger days. One last shot of glory, as it were. But time marches on, and you have to take your moments of glory where you can get them. And while sitting on the bench afterwards sucking wind wasn’t exactly the Kodak moment I was hoping for, a home run is still a home run, and I’ll certainly take it.  

In hindsight, I really didn’t think much about what happened that night until long after I finally stopped playing ball. 

And that’s when it eventually dawned on me: While I still got my fair share of singles afterwards until I finally stopped playing ball, the last home run I ever hit playing baseball was a grand slam home run. 

Not a bad last hurrah for an old guy. 

But I sure had to earn it! 

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