‘Baseball families’ and a 14-year old catcher

In Minnesota, we are a three-sport state: hockey, baseball, and football (with basketball a distant fourth). So like thousands of Minnesota boys, I grew up in a ‘baseball family’–playing baseball in the summers, cheering for the Twins, collecting Kirby Puckett baseball cards.
My wife, on the other hand, is from Birmingham, Alabama–land of football, football, and more football. There is Alabama/Auburn, Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, and your local high school football sports megaplex. Compared to football, everything else here is ping pong: quaint little competitions, but not serious sports.
Being a ‘baseball family’ in Alabama, then, is like being a Mormon family in Alabama. You are a stranger in a strange land.
Yesterday, I found out from my in-laws that a ‘baseball family’ lives down the street–and that they are, in fact, a friendly and helpful lot.
Their oldest son is in ninth grade, my father-in-law told me, and is already on the Briarwood Christian varsity team. He mentioned a second son, as well.
Excited, my wife and I strolled down yesterday afternoon to chat with them, to see if they had any ideas to help with my workouts this week.
I saw in the newspaper that Briarwood’s team was still in the playoffs–maybe it would help to have me throw to the team?
As we walked up the driveway, a younger 14-year old boy zipped past us wearing a baseball uniform and carrying a bag.
“I’ve got to get to a game,” he said breathlessly to my wife, whom he recognized.
The mother, apparently his driver, followed close behind, pointing us inside to talk with her husband and ninth grader.
Inside, they were also getting ready for some baseball, but seemed pleasantly surprised to meet another baseball player. I explained my predicament to them, and the dad agreed to check with the Briarwood coach on having me pitch. The team is apparently facing a tough lefty on Friday, April 23.
But then he mentioned that his younger son (who we already breezily met) is a catcher. He’d love to catch me all week, the dad said, regardless of what Briarwood says.
So this evening at around 7pm, I’ll most likely be driving out to a baseball field to throw a bullpen session to a 14-year old catcher. Apparently, he has quite a bit of practice catching more mature players: in the winters he catches for a pitcher on the class AA Birmingham Barons. “Baseball families” in Alabama are a tight-knit bunch, I guess. They–or shall I say ‘we’–find each other.

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