Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sadly, Halle Berry Is Not Involved In This Version

One of my kids' favorite outdoor games is something I played as a kid that we called monster ball. Basically it's sort of a cross between baseball and kickball. You play it with a wiffle bat and one of those really lightweight inflated balls that you see tons of in huge containers in the front of toy stores this time of year. The kind that you can't throw very far or very hard because they're just not heavy enough. I searched all over the web trying to find an actual name for those types of balls without any success, so I hope I've been clear enough as to what I'm talking about.

Anyway, it's a great game because the balls are big enough that they're pretty easy to hit even for the really little kids. One of the ways to get people out is throwing the ball at them as they run between bases like in kickball, and it doesn't really hurt when you get hit by one. And since the balls don't travel very far you don't need a lot of space to play.

We usually play on our driveway and in the street in front of our house. Home plate is up by our garage and second base is in the middle of the road. I don't think a kid has hit a ball all the way across the street in the air yet.

I still remember when we realized as kids that we were too old to play monster ball any more. I'm not sure exactly what age we were, but since we were pretty big we felt the need to raise the stakes. A wiffle bat wouldn't do -- we needed an aluminum bat. And for a ball we decided to upgrade to one of those red rubber dodgeballs.

With tools like this we needed a little more room, so it was on our bikes and off to the baseball field behind Our Savior's Lutheran Church. We picked our teams and got started.

Eric Ruff was the first one up. He stepped up to the plate, the pitch came in and he swung for the fences, just crushing the ball.

I doubt there are too many physics majors reading this, but let's pause here just the same and think for a moment about something none of us young geniuses thought of back then. Namely, what happens when an aluminum bat makes contact with a large rubber ball. I'll give you one guess, and it rhymes with "recoil."

The bat snapped back and caught poor Eric right in the face. Split his eyelid open pretty good. And thus ended what was very likely the shortest game in monster ball history, and all of our monster ball careers at the same time.

Or so I thought. Didn't really cross my mind back then that I might play the game again 25 years later. I think I'm enjoying it even more now than I did then -- listening to Zak protest that he touched the base before he was hit by the ball, trying to talk Taryn out of wanting to pitch, explaining that you can't carry the bat with you when you run the bases.

And we haven't had to call any games on account of split eyelids, either.

CORRECTION: Childhood friend and participant in this very game Tom Sand e-mailed to remind me that he was actually the first victim of self-mutilation by aluminum bat in this game. Ended up going to the emergency room for stitches. Then, apparently unconvinced that this sort of thing could possibly happen AGAIN, we brilliantly kept playing and Eric sustained his injury.

Sorry for the omission, Tom! I hope after 25 years I can be forgiven for being a little fuzzy on the details, and that you're fully healed. :)

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