- Written by Jeff Summers Jeff Summers
I have always loved baseball, as long as I can remember. The first piece of sports equipment I ever owned was a mitt. This was quickly followed by a ball and bat. The smell of a freshly oiled leather baseball glove, the sight of a newly chalked batter's box, the feel of an outfield of freshly cut grass; these are the memories of my childhood that remain with me even today. As I think back to when I was young, my earliest recollections are somehow connected to the great game of baseball.
At the age of 3, I began playing baseball. Growing up in Idaho, there were relatively few sporting goods stores that carried left-handed baseball equipment. I started using a right-handed mitt placed backwards on my right hand until a glove could be special ordered. Once in my possession, we were never separated. I would carry my mitt with me everywhere and at night it would go under my mattress so that it could be properly broken in. I was constantly begging older kids in the neighborhood to play catch. Finally after accumulating a few of the skills necessary to play, I started looking for a game.
At first it was pick up contests in the front yard with several of the neighborhood kids. But after several broken windows, my mother sent me to a larger park without houses in the base paths. By the age of 5 I was playing organized baseball. It started with T-ball where I played for four years honing my skills. I had very good hand-eye coordination giving me early success. Although many of the kids were much older than I was, I held my own. I played first base for much of my time given that I could catch and that seemed to be the most appropriate place to put a left-handed player. I would sometimes patrol the outfield where I could utilize my speed and arm strength.
At the age of 9, I tried out for Little League (Western Boys Baseball Association to be exact) and made the team. My father coached our team and there I learned the intricacies of hitting a pitched ball. In my rookie season, we made the play-offs and took third place in the local tournament. The next year, I played in the minors once again playing first base and our team again went to the play-offs. At age eleven I moved up to the major league playing for the Decker's Inc. Green team. Each year I made the all-star team and was able to play in the play-offs.
After Little League, I played Babe Ruth where I moved from first to the outfield. This move was necessitated to utilize the speed that I possessed from running the 100 yard dash in track. I had begun pitching when I was eleven and continued at the Babe Ruth level. My curve and slider had very good movement and I played with a knuckle ball which helped me make the traveling all-star team.
I played Babe Ruth for three years before moving on to play high school ball. This was a feat as I also was ranked as a state hurdler and was running track. Given my speed and accurate arm, I played the outfield; mostly right field and center. When on the base paths I would disrupt the flow of the game by stealing second or third. I seemed to have a knack at reading the pitchers moves as I had great success in steals. After high school, I went to college where I played some ball for an independent team in Provo Utah. The money wasn't good but we had a lot of fun. I was again in the outfield and threw in relief.
I continue to play ball although my shoulder has succumbed to the damage that 30 plus years of pitching takes on a body. I have had four shoulder surgeries and my fastball isn't what it used to be. I can still hit the gaps and turn a double into a triple but I must admit I am breathing a lot harder than I did when I was younger. I'm slowly coming to the realization that my playing days are coming to a close but the love I have for this game still burns strongly.
Now I spend a lot of time at Chase Field watching the Arizona Diamondbacks play, dreaming of what might have been. I've tried hard to share my love and knowledge of baseball with my family in hopes that they too will find the joy that I have gotten from this marvelous game.