The first love of my life was baseball. In 1967 when we moved to Coronado, I was 9, going on 10. The following year, I began my too-short journey in this great game as a scrawny Little Leaguer.
To improve my defensive non-prowess, I’d spend countless hours in our back yard firing tennis ball after tennis ball off the outer wall of our garage, trying not to let the rebounds get past me. Chucking all those tennis balls may not have been the best thing for one’s throwing arm, but what a fine way to quicken reaction times by snagging comebacks and short-hops at close range with my at-the-ready Rawlings XPG-3 “Brooks Robinson” mitt, a prized possession.
To better hone my hapless hitting skills, however, I’d harvest marble-size, baby green oranges from our back-yard Valencia tree, toss the tiny green hardballs up onto the angled roof of our house, watch them roll back down, clear the eave, and roll off the edge of the roof, whereupon I’d whack ‘em with my trusty Louisville Slugger, sending smash after smash of the improvised batting-practice pitches into back yards throughout the neighborhood up and down the block, the direction of each moon shot determined by whether I was swinging right-handed or left-handed. It’s no wonder our alleyway was littered with so many little green oranges, prematurely plucked (“I cannot tell a lie.”), only to be batted into oblivion, a sacrifice dearly paid by our poor, unassuming orange tree, all in the name of improving yours truly’s hand-eye coordination, not to mention my nearly nonexistent hitting chops, which did get much, much better with time, thankfully. As an aside, though I thought I was a hot-shot hitter in high school, in college, not so much. To quote good ol’ Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
At lease none of those aforementioned back-yard, gravity-fed, falling fungoes were breaking balls!
Unfortunately, perhaps as a consequence of my once-obsessive practice-practice-practice (…where’s Carnegie Hall?), that venerable old Valencia tree of yore never seemed to produce quite the same.