I was never a good athlete. I was too small, too short, too whatever. Feats of strength were beyond me, but I had a great imagination, and in the unsettled years of my preteen existence, I used to imagine I played baseball for the Atlanta Braves when I stood in my backyard and hit rocks into the garden using a beat-up, old baseball bat. Each thump of the rock against the barrel of the bat excited my senses. I imagined a live baseball taking a wonderful arc over the fence at the woeful Fulton County Stadium bringing home the greats of that era – Murphy, Horner, Hubbard, etc.
I did play Little League one year, but I mostly kept the bench warm for more talented players. My lone memory of a great hit (for me) happened when I accidentally connected with the baseball and it sailed all the way to the base of the fence in the outfield. I was fast then, and I made it all the way to third before the opposing team returned it to the infield. I remember the electric excitement that shot through me when I watched that ball bound off the bat and take flight to the outfield. The din of the crowd rang in my ears. For a moment, I was Dale Murphy swatting another game winner, but of course, it was nothing like that. We lost that game and most of the others we played.
My lack of talent never doused my love for the game. Even today, the earthy smell of a baseball field – all dirt and perfectly cut grass – gets me excited and sentimental. I remember all of the great moments playing baseball in the backyard with friends and cousins and that one singular year playing Little League. I remember watching my beloved Braves on TV with my dad when I was young and sometimes, years later, when I was older. There were even some fleeting moments when three generations of us Elrod men sat and watched a game at my grandfather’s old house on the hill. None of us said much. We just sat and enjoyed the game. Those are moments that exist only in my memory today – something that can never be relived. It brought us all together as if nothing else mattered.
Now, many years later, my grandfather and my dad are no longer around. It’s just me and my son. I’ve taken him to games, but he doesn’t get as excited as I did when I was his age. He has too many other things vying for his attention these days – much more than I did back then. Nevertheless, he goes to games with me, and he seems to have a good time. I think he’s starting to recognize how important it is to me and how important it will be to him many, many years from now. Baseball is about more than the game. It always was. To me at least.