I played Little League for about six years. I was, generally, bad—a corner outfielder with little speed and a weak arm. There were a couple of OK seasons at catcher, a shocking .310 average as an 11-year old. Generally, though, mediocrity.
Except for one time.
I was Jenny Oil’s starting third baseman. We wore red uniforms. Our star pitcher was a kid named Mike Abbott. Our second baseman was P.J. Molinari. I played third, mainly because the starter moved early in the season. There were countless better hitters in our lineup, and one or two worse. I usually found myself in the eight or nine hole, just hoping to save face and walk or get hit by the pitch. We were playing against the white team (can’t recall their name) on a Saturday afternoon at Lakeview Elementary. The opposing pitcher was Rocco Niccoletti, who had thrown really hard until some sort of car accident took away his best stuff.
I stepped to the plate in the third inning. Right-handed hitter, stance sorta like Don Mattingly’s (hands close to the heart). Rocco’s first pitch came over the heart of the plate—a meatball. I closed my eyes (I always closed my eyes) and swung. Pop! Not a big POP. Just … pop. The baseball headed toward the right field fence—at least 160 feet away. To my disbelief, it cleared the top metal bar. I had just … doubled! Right? It was a double. Had to have been. I’d seen the umpires call such a shot an automatic double in past games.
Only, when I reached second, I was sent home. “It’s a home run, kid,” the ump said. I smiled and smiled and smiled. When I reached the plate, my teammates pounded my helmet; chanted “Pearl!” and “Pearlman!”
It was my first home run.
It was my last home run.