Back in the day....
Even though I thought I was little league's Ron Santo, I seemed to ride the pines for the first three innings and then sub for the last three in right field, getting to bat at least once a game. I can still name those '69 Cubbies...Sweet Swingin' Billy Williams in left, Don Young in center, Jimmy Hickman in right, Santo, Kessinger, Beckert, and Mr. Cub Ernie Banks around the horn, Randy Hundley catching and maybe Fergie Jenkins on the mound.
It had to be around age 12-13, 6th or 7th grade. I was riding the pine during the first playoff game. The winners went to the championship game. Our pitcher that day pitched the first three innings and we were up 5-4 when he hurt his arm. Big conference on the mound. Our catcher just happened to be my neighbor, who I played a million hours of catch with, who would want me to pitch to him, to practice his catching. So, he told the coach that I could pitch. Him? Are you sure? Coach didn't know me, and his son for some reason didn't then, and never has been a pal of mine. Well desperate times, call for desperate measures, they didn't have anyone else. Whoa cool. This beats the snot out of three innings subbing in right field. I can remember the smirks on the other team's smug little faces today, to them victory was a certainty.
One of the changes that happenned that summer, was that I could throw a curve before the kids learned to hit them. My neighbor Mark says, "Just like at home, inside, outside, inside and keep it low." "Yep". He didn't use any signals, just placed his target where he wanted it, inside or outside and low. All the chatter was a little unnerving. Bah. It wasn't that unnerving. First pitch was to one of my classmates, who went on to play all through high school and a life-long pal. He was smirking. It was low and inside right on target and made a nice pop. Strike one. Mark set up outside, swing and a miss for strike two. I threw the first real curve ball in a real game. Big fat slow can of corn. It started out right at the batter, he squatted and bailed out as the bender broke right over the plate for a called third strike. The smirks were disappearing.
We did the inside-outside thing for three innings of no-hit ball. The other highlight of my young, not-so-long career was another one of my pals, who went on to play baseball in college, was on first. He beat out an infield hit. He took his lead off and when I took a peek, he was daydreaming. Whap. I picked him off first. It wasn't even close, no arguments, nothing, he was nailed. He just looked at me when he jogged by.
We won the game and our team moved on to the championship game. Coach announced that I would be pitching. I said, "Coach I have Scout Camp next week." He asked, "Can you skip it?" I said, "No, I'm the SPL." My ASPL was on the team too. He said, Remember we told you?" I still don't think he remembered us telling him. I don't recall anyone saying another thing about it. Nobodys parent's or the coach called my mom, begging her to make me play ball. I went to camp. So, there was at least one kid in the history of scouting who skipped a ball game for summer camp. Me. Let's see 1974 was how long ago?
My troop went to our council camp every summer. We looked forward to it, competed to earn the model campsite award, we lashed anything that could be latched. We put up a balanced weighted pole gate at our entrance, was the highlight of summer. Went their 6 years in a row, we didn't know or care that we could go to other camps, we looked forward to going to ours.