Strength In Breaking
What I'm Into (July Edition)

The Summer I Learned To Play Catch

Being an obsessive White Sox fan, you might be surprised that I've never enjoyed playing baseball. In fact, I recall pick up games at my cousins' house in which Jon's best friend Ian would stand behind me and tell me when to swing.

I loved Ian.

I am, shall we say, selectively athletic. Quite a few sports hold little appeal or I've long accepted a lack of playing talent.

Of those I enjoy, rowing tops the list. Joining the crew team remains a college highlight.

My presiding non-interest in sports has never bothered me. If I'm not reading a book, I'd rather be hanging out with friends over a glass of wine than chasing after a ball. If a sport interested me, I gave it a whirl.

In my mid-20s, the majority of my friends enjoyed playing sand volleyball Sunday afternoons. I'd often go cheer them on and work on my tan. Every once in awhile I'd brave the courts. Even though many people were too competitive for my tastes, I usually had fun.

I wondered what else I should give a second try.

As my baseball fandom increased, I realized how better understanding playing the game would help me appreciate it more. Now this didn't mean I wanted to join a league or anything like that. Going to a batting cage- either by myself or with a kind friend so as not to embarrass myself- or playing catch would fit the bill.

It's not that I didn't think I could catch the ball at all. I was merely unconfident in my hand-eye coordination. And I certainly didn't think I could catch a ball under any sort of pressure. My competitive nature really only emerges for Scrabble games. Anything else stresses me out.

I declared the summer of 2006 would be the summer I learned to play catch. My friends were supportive yet incredulous. As in, how had I made it this far in life without being certain I could catch a ball? Apparently, one can grow to be 26 years old and do just fine. Because honestly, short of a baseball stadium, how often do balls come flying at you out of the blue? Wait. Don't answer that.

This goal came about with the purest of motivations. I think. Maybe not. There was a boy in the picture, after all.

Of course, I wondered: if I caught the ball, would I also catch the guy?

On a day that turned into our second or third date, the boy and I sat next to each other at church and then the same table at our post-church haunt with friends. My roommate and I lived practically next door to the restaurant but he insisted on driving us home.

The boy got out of his car and lingered, while my roommate headed in to our apartment. We talked about afternoon plans and the boy suggested we go to a nearby park and read for awhile.

The sun warmed the park bench where we sat, lulling him to lay down next to me after he'd read for a few minutes. A smile tickled my lips as my eyes strayed from the book in my lap to the slumbering boy next to me. The day seemed ever full of promise.

The boy's nap didn't last long and when he woke, he decided we should play catch.

I narrowed eyes at him. Up to this point, I'd envisioned doing this with friends who'd known me awhile. Not a boy I was trying to impress.

But still. He trained those puppy dog eyes on me and I couldn't say no. He trotted off to his car to retrieve a tennis ball- the perfect starter ball. He remained confident in my catching abilities. I remained confident in my ability to embarrass myself around cute guys.

We started out close together, never a bad thing. He lobbed the springy yellow ball to me and I caught it, light in my hands. I tossed it back, a little more certain with each catch and throw.

My mom taught me conversation was like throwing a ball back and forth. Similar to the give and take of relationships.

Back and forth we went. I relaxed. I laughed. I glowed. My aim stayed true. We spread out further and my success continued, going so far as to run back and catch when he overthrew. The student had become the master.

OK, not really.

The boy and I didn't work out. These days my only games of catch involve children under the age of 4. That sunny summer day, the ease of an afternoon in a park with a cute boy, is still emblazoned on my mind.

I keep trying new things and re-trying old things. Just in case. We never know what will happen if we try.

Can you play catch? Have you ever re-tried something you weren't good at before?