When I was 8 years old, I peed my pants while standing in right field, praying the ball wouldn’t get hit to me. No, literally, I peed my white and blue stripped baseball pants out of fear of failure. I never told anyone. I just went home and stuffed the pants in the washer after the game.
Thankfully the ball wasn’t hit to me that night or I may have had an ever bigger accident.
It wasn’t that I was scared of the ball as much as I realized that if the ball were hit to me, there was no way I would ever be able to catch it. It wasn’t like this was some kind of huge game where I was being counted on to win the game for the old ball club.
I was playing for the mediocre Powermatic little league team that’s biggest achievement that year was upsetting Boyd Nursery 9-5 in the first round of the tournament. Yes, I remember the score even though I had nothing to do with the win other than wearing the same blue jersey as my teammates.
I never made a catch during my entire tenure in junior league. I was, after all, a right fielder. At least I didn’t pee my pants again that year even though I had to do some fairly fast foot work to get out of the way of a couple of pop flies that were hit right at me. I mean, why should I settle underneath them when I knew I had no chance of making the catch anyway?
To ensure I was one of those players who makes a lot of coaches roll their eyes when they draw them out of the hat, I didn’t even get close to having a hit that year. Why? Because I knew that when I stepped up to the plate there was no way I was going to hit the ball. I’d get up there and hold the bat on my shoulder the whole time, rarely taking a swing.
Why should I swing anyway? I’d just miss the ball if I swung. On a few rare occasions, I’d actually get walked.
It came to a point in the year when the coach had me stand as close to the plate as possible when I got up to bat, hoping I would get hit and get to take a base. While basically useless as a baseball player, I was fast as lightning once on the bases. The problem was, well, that I lied earlier in this column. I wasn’t scared of the ball. I was terrified of the ball. I would clear out of the batter’s box like I was being attacked by hornets if the ball came inside.
Why the confession so many years later, even though I went on to be a pretty good athlete? Because I played horribly during a tennis tournament this past weekend and it reminded me of how my fear of failure hamstrung me as a child. The upside is that although I laid an egg on the court this past weekend, I didn’t pee my pants.
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.