Well, warm weather is creeping her way into our lives here in Indiana and every step is welcome. A few weeks ago I commented on the Midwest fascination with mowing and how it was a call to mother nature that we love springtime. But nothing says I love the sun more than a good old fashioned game of kickball. Now I love all sports. From MMA to the NBA to a late night game of pool. I cried when Serena won her first title and still can see John Starks dunking over MJ as if it were yesterday. I take sport to its most intimate level. I have been known to make buildings of sugar packets, or cities depending on the crowd at a restaurant. If I am with a party of people over 60 years old than I limit myself to one city block. If I am dining with children under the age of 6 than I can go the full borough and make sure City Hall has tooth picks columns and straw walkways. But Kickball trumps all sports. There are no height requirements. Speed is of little importance and most people can catch something that is bigger than their heads. I say most because all of my kickball experiences have been with elementary school aged kids. Back when I was 10, I was a pretty decent player. I could get the ball past the infield and once in while get enough air time that allowed me to get to second base easily. But during my elementary school TEACHING days, my skills jumped to a whole new level. It’s one thing to watch your 5th grade students rule the playground. It’s another to join the 3rd graders team and break the home run record for a single game. Now I know what your thinking. How can a new school teacher be so competitive? Honestly, I was just testing the field at first. You see I am from N.Y. where the schoolyard is made of grass and your classrooms are in one big indoor building. The gymnasiums have pale yellow floors with blue and red lines and the bleachers were made of wood. Los Angeles, were my professional life began is a concrete jungle of education, kickball, monkey bars and tall handball walls. Your classes are in bungalows and you have to walk outside to get to lunch. All of this was lovely to me. To feel the sun every day was just amazing. It made me think that if I really stuck with it, kickball could be my future. Hey it’s the city of angels and if I could just keep my home run streak going I had a chance. So back to my plan of kickball world
domination. Each kid would get up to kick and have a look of either fear or fortune in their eyes. You knew you had to take a few steps back when the student with the short torso with legs the height of a stop sign took the plate. They had all the leverage and none of the visibility so this ball was going anywhere it pleased. You also had to watch out for the tiny kids with hearts of gold who knew if they kicked it just far enough they could get the tie at first base and steal second while the pitcher adjusts his Velcro sneakers. But no one was ready for me, their teacher, cheerleader, encourager…short in size yes, and maybe a few held back kicks as the designated hitter made them think I was not a threat but years of planning a comeback welled up inside of me as I made my way to the plate. “Miss Sta-cy! Miss Sta-cy!” roared both teams. All eyes were on me. What was I going to do? Was I going to take it easy on my class or give them a Serena like performance that would keep them weeping for ages? Well, I think you know the answer. “Strike one! Strike two!” called the umpire. And by umpire I mean the speech teacher. Was the pitcher kidding me? I could easily make that A plus on his spelling test turn into a C minus. “Strike thr… oh my goodness! She got a piece of it!” cried the announcer/school secretary carrying a walking microphone. And off the ball went past the outfield, past the handball court, and stopped only by the chain linked fence. Now in the balls defense we were playing on concrete so I got a lot of extra mileage out of the bounces on the ground. But none the less it was my first home run of the day. I heard shouts of glee and saw a lot of mouths drop in the in field as I crossed home plate with a enough time to tip my hat to the stadium, I mean school yard. But after about 10 uncontested home runs and 3 ruled ties I took one last look at the outfield, high fived the losing team and then walked over to the secretary and took my post as the next games announcer. I knew then that I had done what I had come to California to do: be a world-class athlete inspiring young people to reach for their dreams. That was until the 4th grade teacher we’ll call Mr. Smith broke my record in one inning. There is always next season. Sugar city anyone?
Hats off to all the graduates. FINER will be playing graduation parties this weekend.