Rock Piles & Flower Beds

Originally posted on October 16, 2013

I first experienced the "crack" of the bat while standing on the pile of crushed gravel in my backyard as a kid. An old wood bat, some childhood creativity, and a lot of suburban solitude produced some of my life's best memories.There's more to hitting rocks than just tossing them up and swinging away. Way more. I wouldn't have been committed to it from age 9 to 15 if it was just as simple as squaring up rocks.

Before I really began to hone my craft, I was the simple rock hitter. Toss up a tiny piece of crushed gravel - jagged edges and all - and hit it. The problem was, I couldn't see where the rock went. There was zero satisfaction of solid contact. Sure, some would zing, some I could actually pick up the flight, but for the most part, as with life...not having a plan kind of sucked.

So let me describe my backyard as a kid. We lived in the suburbs, but depending of your definition of that, we were in the country as well. There were no houses behind us, just an empty wheat/gooseberry/dirt/whatever field that seemed to go for miles. Directly beyond our half acre lot was three giant (kid giant at least) walnut trees. The backyard was nice, but also completely build for kids. There was grass, dirt, plants, flowerbeds, sandbox, swing set, deck, and everything else that could create nice family memories. We had plenty of them. The rock pile was kind of left over from a project that my dad had been working on. I eventually made most of that rock pile disappear.

Before long, I destroyed that Reggie Jackson stick and my parents picked up a couple of old bats from a garage sale. Sometimes I would have to resort to duct tape to keep the barrels intact, but I managed. The walnut trees because the basis of my creativity. To me, those weren't walnut trees. Those were the outfield bleachers (or decks) and Yankee Stadium, Riverfront, Dodger Stadium, Wrigley etc.

As I gained a little power, and some extra skill directing the rocks, I was knocking balls rocks deep into the stands. Some huge upper deck mammos, and everything in between. It wasn't uncommon for me to bring a sheet of paper and keep track of my stats and actually act out a complete season, or career. I specifically remember a 57 game hitting streak and eclipsing 61 many times. Granted, the trees were maybe 125 feet away at most, but they made noise when rocks crashed into their branches. It totally felt like Roy Hobbs slamming BP balls into the bleachers. Clang! Clang!

My favorite tool was the 1986 Topps Sticker Yearbook with Pete Rose's 4192 on the cover. I wasn't so much into the sticker collecting as I recall, but the book had a schematic breakdown of every current stadium in the big leagues. Perfect for me to set the stage, park dimensions, strange nooks and crannies, etc.

By the time I was 12 or 13, I succumbed to the temptation of hitting my mom's large round flowerbed rocks. I had been repeatedly warned to leave those alone and just hit the crushed gravel. However, the temptation was just too great. Those things flew straight, deep, far, and loud. Perfect. By the time I was 15, I had completely emptied that flowerbed, and I'm glad I did.