When I was 12 and dealing with my father's recent marriage and my own sludgey self-image born of the nickname "Plumpso", I had a 5 week ego-boost courtesy of baseball. Not Little League - I wasn't good enough for the teams that had the real uniforms. This was Minor League, a less organized, well-meaning assembly of either bad players or younger kids who, no doubt, would graduate to the BIG LEAGUE as soon as they turned 9. But I wasn't very athletic (see nickname) and so being the oldest player on a team of younger kids was actually a really good thing. I was a great hitter and decent fielder (3rd base) for my team sponsored by Phillips 66. Sure we only got T-shirts and not full buttoned baseball jerseys, but none of that mattered to me. I was a player.
I remember one game when our pitcher didn't show up. The coach looked at me and said, "You want to pitch?" Images of trotting in from the Fenway bullpen flooded my head as I walked to the pimple of a mound at the Duffy Field park. Pitching was the pinnacle and this was my moment.
I threw pretty good ones - struck the first kid out and was feeling about as good as a kid could. But I noticed there was some talk going on behind the backstop and then I watched as my coach approached the mound with a look on his face that made my stomach churn. "Sorry," he said. "You're 12. You're not elligible to pitch."
I handed him the ball and then saw a boy grinning from the sidelines. It was the younger brother of a kid in my grade at school. He was on the opposite team and he'd squealed on me. I wanted to run over and throttle him - but instead slumped back to third base and continued to be the older, plump kid who could hit inside the park triples.
Yesterday I was on the mound again. For about two days I was included in the wonderful Jen Robinson's Top Five list for 2006. If you don't already know about it - Mother Reader is asking kid-lit folks to post their picks.
POND SCUM was in the list of elementary school books and I gotta tell you, I was strutting. But in the kindest way (I love this kidlit blog world!) it was brought to Jen's attention that Pond Scum came out in 2005 making it inelligible for a 2006 "list". Ah, the walk back to 3rd base is always a slow, painful march!
Here's the question though: for a book that comes out in October of a year to get noticed enough for that year's "accolades" - there has to be a pretty immediate awareness of said book. I am learning that Pond Scum is more like a stalk of kudzu. It is spreading and taking hold and it's a slow growth which hopefully will continue to take its weedy hold of the 3-6th grade set!
So I guess all this is to say: I struck one kid out. I was in a Top Five list. I am Kudzu.
And it's all good stuff.