A baseball idyll, COVID-19 edition

My baseball-crazy next-door neighbors have set up a virtual academy in their back yard, and it brings joy to my heart.

It’s a family of Phillies fans, as affirmed by the tell-tale red and white “P” sticker clinging the back of their SUV. The boys, about 12 and 9, emerge from the house at sun-up to hit balls off a tee into a large net.

That set-up has been in place for the last couple of summers, and through the windows of our house we hear the “plink” of bat hitting ball from various sessions throughout the day.

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Duck behind the screen, Dad!

With the coronavirus lock down in effect for New Jersey, the neighbors have upped their (practice) game. The boys now have some sort of spring-activated device that lobs up balls for the boys to hit into the net.

Not long ago, Dad came home and assembled one of those screened frames to shield the batting-practice pitcher from rockets through the box. While Dad pitches BP to one son, the other son and Mom patrol the outfield, shagging flies.

Just now, Dad was pitching plastic balls to the older son, who was swatting them with some sort of spatula-like bat substitute that I’d never seen before. Dad also installed something that looks like it’s out of Mighty Mick’s Gym: a punching bag spiked onto a cylinder atop a heavy black base. The kids take their whacks against the bag, I imagine to improve their strength.

I’ve always been impressed that the kids put so much time into practicing. They don catching gear and catch each other, as Dad does for each of them. He pops in and out throughout the day, coaching them on their technique.

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These kids go at it hour after hour, day after day. From my vantage point, they do it willingly and enjoy it. My only quibble is that they swing with an uppercut worthy of Bryce Harper, exactly the opposite of what my father taught me: “Level swing, Danny. Meet the ball. Don’t try to kill it.” But I never could hit my own weight, so these boys are better off listening to their father.

I haven’t seen evidence of a radar gun yet, but it’s still early in May here in Clearwater North. If the Philly Phanatic happens by some afternoon, I won’t be surprised.

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