From Hating Baseball to Liking It

Here in Anchorage, Alaska school was canceled today, on November 3rd, because we got about four inches of snow on the ground. I find this a bit startling, because when I was growing up here, school wouldn’t be cancelled, unless there were over 11″ on the ground, with another 6″ or 7″ more on the way. I blame the new Anchorage School District Superintendent, Dr. Jharrett Bryantt, who recently moved here from Houston.  Not used to Anchorage winter, and I think he possibly celebrated a bit too much after the Astros pitched a combined no-hitter in game 3 of the World Series last night.  

All kidding aside, I’m not here to talk about Anchorage’s weather, even though it is probably the most beautiful day since last March.  I am here to talk a bit about baseball.  You may not know, but Clendaniels are crazy about baseball.  My brother has been the coach at Anchorage West High for three years, and the president of Anchorage West little league program for two years.  My niece, Athena Clendaniel, was the captain of the varsity baseball team her senior year in high school, and threw the first pitch at a Dodgers game in 2018 for the MLB girls Trailblazer program. My dad was always the coach for my brother’s and my teams in little league, and even my sisters had to play t-ball. My grandfather, Frank Clendaniel, loved baseball.  Grandma was trying to save money, but grandpa went down and signed up all four of his boys for little league.  The game Strat O’ Matic baseball predated video game baseball and all four of the Clendaniel brothers (my dad and uncles) played it vigorously. They spent every day at the park playing baseball with their friends. They collected baseball cards, putting the eyes out with ball point pens when their favorite players played badly. My dad’s Hank Aaron rookie card isn’t in mint condition, because of a bad series of games one year.  

My brother loves baseball, but I never really did growing up.  I remember being forced into it at an early age. About five years old and crying to mom that I just got hit in the face by a hardball.  My dad said, “Thank the ball for toughening up your hand,” when it stung in the glove. I didn’t mind t-ball so much, and coach pitch was alright, but when I hit the minors in little league, I really didn’t enjoy the game much.  My brother would trade me candy and cash to get me to play catch with him for 30 minutes.  My batting average in little league was .0 and I just didn’t want to pay attention out in left field where, if I wasn’t sitting on the bench, I was forced to stand.  I used to look for four leaf clovers in the grass. It’s no wonder I never caught a fly ball.  In 5th grade I still had to play baseball and I revolted by getting really sick. I had walking pneumonia, and ended up having to go on steroids to kick it. Truth was, I just didn’t want to play baseball, and I would rather be sick than go out and stand in left field.  If my dad loved baseball so much, why did I have this awful floppy glove that was 40 years old, and why were all the family’s baseball bats nailed back together, or held together with electrical tape? Fortunately I got out of baseball when I went to junior high. Baseball surrounded us, and of course the Mariners were destined to lose games.  Yeah, my parents are from Walla Walla, Washington, and really care if the Mariners win or lose. So, they are pretty much always unhappy during baseball season. 

Fast forward to 2005, and I moved into a sweet apartment building on 3rd and A St.  I wondered what the noise was that sounded like ghosts howling through the exhaust vent.  It turned out to be my lower neighbor screaming about the Mariners.  We became good friends with Dicker, and he invited us over for grilled salmon and to watch Mariners games. I like salmon, and Dicker grills it perfectly. Maria started to like baseball. I guess I learned some stuff about it when I was out in left field, because I was able to help teach her the rules of the game, when Dicker wasn’t explaining the finer points. We continued to visit Dicker for salmon and baseball for 15 years, until he moved to Washington. Our old condo apartment was close to Mulcahy Stadium, and we used to walk down there with Dicker to drink beers in the beer garden and watch the Anchorage Glacier Pilots play in the Alaska Baseball League.  Maria wanted to go to a MLB game, so she drug me to watch the Cubs play at Wrigley Field on a trip to Chicago.  We moved into this house a year ago, and Maria turned baseball on the TV and we grilled salmon. I don’t even care who wins, and I don’t really need to know the score or the inning, but for a guy who used to loathe the sport, I’ve turned into a fan. I like the noise of the game at this point more than anything. It reminds me of happy people around me. I feel like I am at home when I hear the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the chatter of the announcers.  

Maria’s first MLB game at Wrigley Field, Chicago, 2015

We have been watching the World Series, and the games have been pretty good.  I don’t really care who wins and I’m happy that the series is tied 2-2. At Dicker’s house, when we would go for dinner and games, I used to root for extra innings, because there would be more baseball, and more time hanging out with friends. The same is true about series games. If they tie up the series, then there are more games, and more salmon dinners to drink beer and hang with friends.  So, for a guy who used to hate baseball, I guess I have come around to loving the sport. Not because I participate in fantasy baseball, or even care who wins or loses, but I just like to feel like I am surrounded by fun times, and baseball brings me that.

I have been painting Christmas ornaments, and I just made one for the Phillies and for the Astros. I painted a baseball on the back of each one. The oil paint is drying, but they will be available at my Etsy shop very soon.

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