Jimmy and I played the usual three years of little league baseball through the YMCA in Huntsville when we were around 10 to 12 years old. We played at several different baseball fields, but the two most frequent (and my favorites) were the fenced in field by Jack’s hamburger place on Governors Drive — it was right across from the Winn Dixie grocery store where the two of us would eventually work — and the McCormick YM

CA field. Perhaps somewhat prophetic, the McCormick field was right across the street from West Huntsville Baptist Church where Jimmy and I would come to Christ a decade later. I used to look at the church during games and wonder what it was like to attend church in that building.

I have attached a faded photograph of our first little league team. I am second from the right on the front row wearing # 6 (the number of Jimmy and my favorite player Al Kaline, hall of fame right fielder for the Detroit Tigers). Jimmy is to my right without a hat and wearing his glove. There were highlights in our lives from all three years. My best year was year # 2 in my estimation. The first year, the coach found out I knew how to bunt which in the end I didn’t like. He put me as the lead off hitter in every game and he gave me the bunt signal every time I came up to bat the whole season–yes, the whole season!.. I wanted to hit singles, doubles, triples, and home runs! But the coach knew I could bunt and create havoc since most young boys did not yet field well. One time I bunted right through the second baseman’s legs out into short right field and ended up on third base after sliding into first, second, and third in a Bad News Bears kind of scene. I put it down in my record book as a triple when it was really safe on third because of two fielding errors.

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The third year of our little league careers was probably Jimmy’s best. We both made the all-star team and I became a pitcher. We most often played in the outfield or second-base/shortstop. This year was also highlighted by the fact that part way through the season, my Dad became the coach of the team.

But the real story I want to tell you comes from our second year, my best year hitting. We had a great fielding outfield — me in right, Jimmy in left, and Tim Robbins in center. Jimmy usually batted second while I batted third. In this one game in the field by Jack’s Hamburgers, I had three straight hits, the last one a foot from the top of the fence and off the wall — the closest to a home run I ever came. But we were behind in the last inning. The pitcher on the other team was angry because we started to come back so he became wild. He hit a couple of batters, one in the back of the neck. I was in the on deck circle while Jimmy was batting. I believe there was one out. Jimmy hit a double driving in some runs to make it 6 to 5. We were one run down. I was excited because I had three straight hits off of this guy. But as I walked up to the batter’s box, the coach called me back. I wondered what he was doing. Was he going to take me out after going 3 for 3 off of this pitcher? No, he just wanted to warn me — “this guy is wild and might hurt somebody, be careful!” All that did was make me passive. I took the first two pitches straight down the middle for strikes. The third pitch was also straight down the middle and I swung and missed weakly. The coach had talked me out of doing well. I left Jimmy standing on second base when I should have knocked him in to tie the game. The cleanup hitter on our team (John) hit a home run to win the game so all was not lost. Out of all our little league games this is the one I remember the most. Not exactly sure why. But it is another shared treasure I had with my dear brother Jimmy.