After Major League Baseball pitcher Alan Busenitz visited Morgan County’s baseball practice this week to throw a little batting practice to the Dogs, it brought back some memories of going up against the Big Boys. It also brought to mind how feebly short my efforts fell in trying to compete with players with talent on another level.
I may have mentioned some of my high school and college escapades on the diamond and hardcourt. I know I’ve shared some not-so-athletic events off the fields of play unless you consider repelling off the top of our college apartments at 2 a.m. athletic.
The good. I was a member of the 1975 basketball squad under Coach Reggie Ross. That team was the very first boys’ team in Morgan County history (to my knowledge) to reach the State Tournament. That team featured three college players, another who could have easily played at the next level, and an all-state football player who was the other guard with yours truly at the point. We did not win the region (lost to Putnam), but we did advance to the Elite Eight. A last-second buzzer shot on our part was errant and had every chance to go in for a trip to the Final Four. A one point loss. I still remember it like yesterday. During my junior year, the MCHS baseball team came within one run of defeating Harlem in the Region Championship Series. Harlem wasn’t challenged after that and went on to win the State Championship. And, we were undefeated in the regular season.
I’m not telling you this to brag (well maybe a little). I’m just setting the stage to let you know that those teams and this old point guard/second baseman played against and with some pretty good players.
Now, the bad. Getting back to my original thought, here’s the deal. Even though I played on some decent squads, I had no idea what real athleticism was all about. The kind that takes a guy to the NBA or MLB or on to professional football. Once I had a taste of it up close and personal, I knew that I had a slightly overrated view of my 5’8” 145 pound frame and my game. We’ve all seen it. Especially if you’re a coach. The parent who truly believes that their nine-year-old is headed straight to the NBA or Major Leagues. They’ll get drafted #1 straight out of high school. Just sayin’. Ummm, they might become a decent high school player.
The really bad came after I entered college. In my freshman year I started at second base for the Georgia College Colonials (now the Bobcats). Fitting name since it was back in Colonial Times when I played. I hit .301 for that season. Think about that. I could barely hit that against not D-I or D-II pitching, but NAIA pitchers. I couldn’t have gotten a sniff of a 90 mph fastball, much less a Clayton Kershaw hook that breaks like it fell off a table going 82 mph. That’s a pretty good high school fastball speed folks.
More of the really bad came when I faced off with one of my own teammates. His name was Rob Williams and he is the only All-American basketball player from my alma mater. We were pitted to compete in a one-on-one tournament during spring practice. It was my chance to show the coach that I belonged and deserved some more playing time baby. I’ll show him. He beat me 20-0. I didn’t even get a good shot off. Williams was later drafted by the Hawks and was cut. He wasn’t quick enough they told him. Are you kidding me? He’s the best I’ve ever seen and he’s not good enough? I’ll just go hide in the corner of my room.
A couple more incidences have also helped remind me that my childhood dream was destined for failure from a young age. The first one was not as a competitor if you can imagine that. Big brother and I were attending a college basketball game at UGA. I don’t remember much of the details or even who we were playing that day. I do recall that the Dogs weren’t playing particularly well and one very loud fan sitting behind us was giving them the business. We endured his taunts for some time before he uttered these words, “I can play better than you guys. I’ll come down there and show you!” With nary a smile on his face, and serious as a heart attack, Alvin turned and said to the guy, “Man, you couldn’t even get open.” One of the best lines I’ve ever heard. You see, he had played against this caliber of athlete and knew that this overweight, 40-ish athlete wannabe had no idea what he was talking about. He was right. These guys are good.
I’ll leave you with this final anecdote. As a 20-20 guy at the college level (I got in when we were 20 ahead or 20 behind), I remember playing at Western Kentucky. We were behind by 20. The substitute guard that came in to guard me couldn’t be that good. Key word. Substitute. He was probably 5-9 and built like a fullback. I had always prided myself on my first step of quickness and ballhandling skills. So, what did I do? I just blew by him, right? Wrong. He stepped in and drew a charge against me. Next time, same outcome. I looked around to see where the other guy that was guarding me was. He had me surrounded. If you’ve ever been out there with several thousand fans watching and feeling totally helpless to do anything about it, that was my predicament. Next time I just passed it to a teammate.
So, when I hear people talking junk about how good they, or their kid, are, I just wonder, “Is your best really good enough? I doubt it.”
Signed, a very, very average athlete