This summer, I started playing baseball in league for washed up players who can’t let go. Of course, I want to hit a home run, but I doubt I will. Playing again did remind me of my first ever collegiate home run. When most baseball players hit their first high school or collegiate home run, it’s memorable for good reasons. My first over the fence home run didn’t quite end up that way.
During my freshman year of college, I tried out for the baseball team at UW-Oshkosh. The best part about tryouts was all we did was play games. The coaches would make teams, and all fall we just played against our teammates.
I knew my chances at making the team were thin, just like me. Back then, I wasn’t that big of a guy. I was about six foot one, but I probably only weighed 30 pounds. Another factor against me was I was what they call a “walk-on”. This means I wasn’t recruited by the coaches to play baseball. Thankfully, I made it through the first week of cuts. The coaches must have seen something in me, because they started working one on one with me. The hitting coach made me change my batting stance, and how I held the bat.
The next game after I had my one on one coaching session, I was penciled in as the starting left fielder and hit seventh in the order. The pitcher we faced was a sidearmer. His fastball was pretty nasty. It tailed like crazy as it came darting in towards the plate. The first two innings, he mowed down all of the batters he faced in order.
Right before I was to lead off the third inning, the pitcher from our team, Tom Petri, told us to start getting some hits. Petri was a great collegiate pitcher, and actually played in the minor leagues after college for two years. I don’t remember how he knew me back then since he was a Senior and I was a Freshman, but Tom talked to me right before my at bat. “Tief,” he said. “Get a hit.”
I trotted up to the batters box and got myself mentally ready. I wanted to get a better read on the sidearmer’s fastball, so I took the first pitch. The catcher called balls and strikes since this was a practice game. The first pitch was way outside, but the catcher called it a strike. What a load of crap, that call was, I thought to myself. Well, at least I knew one thing. I’d better be swinging up here.
The pitcher wound up for the next pitch, unfurled his body and hurled a low and inside tailing fastball. I swung hard, whipping the bat down at the pitch and totally crushed the ball high and deep down the left field line. Normally, when I pull the ball, it tails way foul, so I stood in the batters box after I hit the ball.
My majestic blast hung right on the line and was so high it went over the top of the foul pole. The catcher didn’t say fair or foul, so I just stood in the batter’s box like an idiot. Finally, the head coach broke the silence, “Start running! Who do you think you are? Barry Bonds?”
It was fair. I just hit a home run. I sprinted around the bases and then headed back into the dugout. Petri was laughing, along with the rest of the players. “What were you doing out there?” he asked. I just shrugged my shoulders. They all laughed some more.
– David Tiefenthaler