Guest Writer Josh Jones
Baseball means numerous things to me and my passion for the game has evolved as I have been getting older. My passion for the game as a child has to stem from being introduced to it by my idol, which is my father. Every kid loves to be able to play catch with their fathers and my father did more than that. My earliest memory of baseball is going through pictures of my Dad pitching and being amazed at how he looked.
I distinctly remember his pitching form being perfect, off the mound with his right leg bent and pushing off the mound with tremendous bend for power. His right arm corked and twisted ready to deliver a fastball (which i knew at that young age it was a fastball because Dad explained how he threw the ball in the picture across the four red seams of the ball). My Dad would explain every detail of the game with me to help me learn how to play the game right. I would ask questions about how to correctly throw, hit and field the ball. We would then go out and do drills until we couldn’t see anymore. So my passion started there, at probably five or six.
I remember my first professional baseball game I went to as a kid. My first game was a trip to Portland to watch the Triple A division Portland Beavers…. I remember walking into the stadium with my glove in hand ready to catch a foul ball. My Dad and I walked in to find our seats and take in batting practice. I remember being amazed at all the sights, sounds, smells and atmosphere of the whole situation.
I watched with great intent as each batter came up to take their cuts at the ball, the infielders fielding ground balls, the outfielders fielding fly balls, the smell of hot dogs, smell of freshly cut grass, gloves popping from hard throws and listening intently as my dad explained what was going on and answered all of my questions. Another unforgettable image for me was actually sitting and watching expecting a foul ball to come my way.
Sure enough, one did come our way and I had to sprint out of my seat to chase the ball down.As the baseball bounced around in the seats, fighting off other kids with the same goal as me. I remember that most of the kids were looking in the wrong spot and as I chased the baseball, my father yelled at me to guide me right to the baseball and I will never forget the feeling of getting that first foul ball. I left the stadium a changed kid, realizing that baseball was the sport I would love the rest of my life.
As a young kid, my younger brother Seth and I would play wiffle ball in our backyard pretty much everyday. We would take all of our baseball cards and by position, line them up to write down our starting lineups which were then tacked to our fence. We would play for hours arguing of course over who was safe and out based on whether we were crossed out by the baseball or our imaginary runner was forced out.
We both looked forward to Dad coming home from work to play with us and him pitching to us as his idol, Nolan Ryan. We knew he could throw it by us anytime he wanted but being the great Dad that he was, he would let up for us to be able to hit the ball successfully over the fence for home runs.
Baseball was always the sport that I would train for every year. I played other sports like basketball and football but everything was geared towards early spring and playing baseball at the highest level possible. Each year trying to hone in on a certain skill of the game.
The game has taught me so much throughout the years. How to work as a team, deal with loss, how to learn to be a good sport, a good person, the excitement of success with every little thing I did right and to have a common bond with my wonderful family. The game teaches and guides you through your life and how to respond to adversity. It is a humbling game because it is the hardest thing in sport to do, to hit a baseball consistently hard and do it regularly.
Baseball is my life blood and I think of it like oxygen. I couldn’t live without the game being around me in some capacity every day of my life. My ultimate goal of playing past high school was never realized but the baseball gods have been great to me in giving me the ability to teach the game that I love to young kids and teenagers.
I was blessed to coach for several years at the high school level, Babe Ruth level and little league level. All of those levels teaching me a great deal on how to effectively teach the game the right way. My coaching can to be traced back full circle to how I was taught by my Dad.
As an adult now, there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not checking all of my possible ways to stay connected to the game. My understanding of the game has evolved even more as an adult too: through the ability to look up stats, hearing first hand accounts of how the game is played by certain people, knowing what to look for in proper technique, and following everything that happens daily through social media.
My passion has never diminished and I believe it has grown as I am now a father myself to a little boy that reminds so much of myself. He has all the questions I had and constantly wants to learn to improve which makes me a happy daddy but more importantly knowing that it makes my son happy to spend quality time with me.
So in conclusion, I look forward to the future of my baseball experience and what the game will allow me to do next. I have always wanted to write about the game in some form and maybe I can start doing that soon in the near future.
Anytime I question whether baseball is still America’s pastime I read or hear about the future stars of this game and how hard they work, to get to achieve their ultimate goal of playing major league baseball. Many won’t make it to the “show” but I know of plenty of players that dedicate their lives to this wonderful sport and that renews my belief in the future of the game in this wonderful country.