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A second chance at first base

June 22, 2012
By BRANDON VEALE ( , Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

This is a story about how change can be good for you.

Throughout my career on the baseball and softball diamond, there was always a '4' penciled next to my name in the scorebook.

I kind of liked playing second base. Lou Whitaker was an easy professional idol (even if he was a bit daffy), and no one expects the second baseman to crank out 400-foot homers, which was something the 4-foot-6 version of me couldn't do at age 12. I think I hit a one-hopper to the fence once.

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After a one-year hiatus, the Grace United Methodist Church softball team is back and playing Biblically (Matt. 20:16) once again in the Copper Country Church Softball League.

I'm still out there giving it a go. In a column two years ago, I dreamed of turning a real, live double play. We've done it this year: twice. We even turned a triple play, 6-2-5-4, if you're scoring at home.

Don't tell me the Lord doesn't answer prayers.

Winning? Well, that hasn't happened yet, but that's not what this column is about.

Other than the double plays, my contributions on the defensive end have been spotty at best. When I was 12, I caught a line drive with my face, and though I got up and struck the next kid out for the save with a bloody tongue, I still get a little gun-shy. Watch me the next time someone shoots a puck off the glass in front of me. Needless to say, second base is not a position for the timid, unless you want to keep the rightfielder busy.

After a particularly bad outing last week, I was rather disappointed in myself. But some time during game day Tuesday, I got an idea.

When I got to the park and Manager Jake had the same idea, I took it as a sign of divine providence, smiled and went out to my new position: first base.

In a way, I'd always wanted to be the first baseman, but 4-6, 125 aren't exactly first baseman's dimensions. Dad, the manager back in those days, had a bad run-in with the biggest kid in Negaunee when he played back in the day. I'd like to think he was looking out for me.

But as a 5-11, 2**-pounder, this might be a good neighborhood.

Sure enough, from the first practice ball thrown to my replacement at second to the last out, I felt at home.

At one point, I managed to snare a one-hop throw from deep short at full (for me) stretch for the putout.

Someone on the visiting bench even said "Nice scoop, one!" I tipped my cap, mostly because the feedback I usually get starts with "Why do you hate (my kid's team)?"

Oh, there's a lot to fix with my game, starting with my leaden feet and my slumping bat. In that same game, a member of the opposing team expressed his bewilderment that a ball that sounded so loud was hit so weakly.

So, maybe you're approaching the sunset of your career (or for me, merely that 2 p.m. feeling). Stay in the game and be open to change.

Look what it did for me. For once, instead of being a defensive disaster, I was a defensive liability.

Miracles happen every day.

Brandon Veale is sports editor of the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette. Follow him on Twitter at redveale.



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