I Used to Be a Pipsqueak (A Guest Post)

My mother and father have been reading my blog intently since I began shoving it down their throats roughly a year ago.  The idea of going back to a site again and again for new content is new to them – but they’re catching on.

My mother is a newspaper columnist.  Or was.  Still is, I suppose, because it runs through her blood and she absorbs human interest stories like oxygen.  If I have any talent at all, then this is the woman to blame.

The PI folded.  I guess everyone knows that now.  It’s the second paper to fold underneath my mother – readership and friends and community and income and lifeblood all falling away in so many swoops.  It’s a headline to us now: Seattle P.I. shuts its doors.  She’s a statistic, a casualty maybe, depending on how you look at it.

What matters is that writers don’t stop writing because newspapers have not figured out how to be businesses.  What matters is that my mother still channels human love and human hurt and human suffering and human triumph unlike any other person I know.  She’s a master.  And she classically gives herself less credit than she deserves (a characteristic that she admonishes me for regularly).

Right now we’re regrouping and plotting and planning.  Backed into corners, Swifts have been taught to come out swinging.  Eyes rabid, possibly frothing.

In the meantime, she and my father are circling the wagons as most of us are.

And you know what?  I’m still calm.  I’m still riding my stupid bike.  I’m still admiring the way that spring is sneaking in on us.

And my father, another family writer, is still reading my blog, which is interesting both from a sociological and family psychology perspective… but I digress.  He has observed my current bike mania and wishes to illuminate my former pipsqueak-ness for you.

Enoy.

“I Used to Be a Pipsqueak”
by Kermit Swift (yes, Kermit is his real name.  And, for the record, he is older than the frog.)

Heidi Swift, known for her bike blogging, was famous for writing about softball first and foremost. Never mind that her life seems to have been overtaken by bike porn and the exquisite pain of rollers and asphalt kissing crashes. I knew her when she was Heidi the pipsqeak, base runner for the older kids. This is my favorite (and true) baseball story of Heidi-Ho. It marks the beginning of an awesome, (and soon to be renewed?) softball career.

It Began on a muddy little field under buzzing, crackling power lines. Skyway park, at the time, had small swamps near first and third base and usually a nice ten foot stretch of mud approaching both. It was a wonderful place to teach sliding to ten, eleven and twelve year old girls. On this soggy diamond Heidi’s mom held court with her old golden bat. Smoking grounders to the crouching infielders and sending flies deep into the outfield.

The problem with this scenario was that base running practice, badly needed to sharpen infielding skills as much as base running , was almost always short at least one runner, leading to the imaginary runner phenomenon. It was sort of like Bang-I-got-you! in war games. The ball would eventually get to the right mitt and the team would loudly proclaim that the runner was out by a mile while the curmudgeon assistant coach chimed in, “Thank goodness the runner fell out of her wheel chair…”

Enter the pipsqueak. Heidi was four during her sisters last year in majors.

She was at the field every day. She was fast for a pipsqueak. She was recruited as a replacement for the fantasy base runner early in the season and since she loved to play “sliding in the mud” (cyclocross in the rain anyone?) she was a natural. So Heidi ran and she slid and she learned when to run and when to wait, and when to go back , but she didn’t learn to run over the catcher who was her tall, tough, twelve-year-old sister. Nope -  she went around every time.

Incidentally she learned to use a glove pretty well, considering hers has about half as big as she was.

The next season Heidi chose to play T-ball instead of ballet because “they don’t cheer for you in Ballet” She ran bases for the big kids between her practices.
This all leads me to my very favorite of all the many Heidi baseball stories.

Somewhere in her first T-ball season Heidi’s team came up against a team coached by a big noisy, belligerent, overly-competitive man.

Heidi was the first base person because she usually caught the ball and unlike virtually all the boys on the team, she knew what to do with the ball when she got it. All that base running had paid off.

Games were limited to 4 or 5 innings or a certain amount of time. In this game the inning limit was reached rapidly and there was time left on the clock. Heidi’s team was one run ahead. They should have won at that point. By the rules the game was over. But Mr. manly competitive, “show your five-year-olds true sportsmanship” went ballistic. He bellowed like newly neutered herford bull. (I grew up on a farm. I know these things): There was time on the clock! His kids deserved a chance to come back! The rules said the game wasn’t over till the clock ran out ! The poor umpire was just a parent who was drafted for this game. He had no idea what the T-ball rules were this year. He caved.

Neutered Bull’s team was up and Heidi’s team of five-and-six-year-olds stopped celebrating and bouncing around the dugout and hunting for lost sweatshirts and mitts and toy airplanes and took the field. Their concentration, always nearly non existent, had evaporated.

Ignoring abusive stares and comments from almost all the fans, Mr. Man, the coach, was yelling enthusiastically and trying to hype his kids into a killer offensive mode. It must have worked.

First batter up hit an infield single. It dribbled off the T about a third of the way down the third base line. Heidi was yelling “get the BALL!” but the third baseman and the pitcher and the catcher had each decided the other should be doing that. The single became a double.

Next Kid hit a slow dribbler to the pitcher who threw it to the third baseman. Runners on first and second nobody out.

Batter number three hit the ball a few feet past the third baseman. Who picked it up and ran toward home plate where he handed it to the catcher. (huh?)

Nobody scored but the bases were loaded.

It’s unlikely more than two kids playing defense really knew how bad things were. The center fielder was drawing circles in the dust with a stick. Right field was twirling around to make himself dizzy and starring into space each time he stopped. The shortstop and third baseman were arguing about what the third baseman should have done on the last play.

Neutered Bull was frothing at the mouth. His kids were going to win this easy. Already he had his Victory strut on as he sent his best hitter, a lefty, to the plate. It didn’t matter that the other team had another at bat. He figured a two run lead would do the job. The way Heidi’s team was playing anything fair would tie game or put the other team in the lead.. Some of the tough guys kids had caught his brand of sportsmanship and were yelling rotten comments about their hapless opponents.

Heidi ‘s mom’s team was the Patriots. Heidi had had it drummed into her towheaded little noggin’ that patriots talk with their bats and their mitts only.

Unlike some of her teammates she said nothing. Her little pipsqueak cleats dug into the dusty field a few feet off of first base and just behind the baseline. Concentration etched furrows into her brow. Grim straight lipped determination and a beady eyed stare directed at the batter completed the pose.

Pipsqueak was ready!

The batter was as good as his reputation. The first swing sent the ball high (relatively, he was six) in the air toward very shallow right. In T Ball this is a double at least. A triple or homer was not out of the question. But Heidi was wearing the glove where doubles and triples go to die. She was off at the clink of the bat running back and toward second.

Big guy coach was going berserk, and frantically waving his kids around. He KNEW the game was over.

But Heidi’s quick little cleats scampered over the infield dust almost back to the grass while the big mitt waved in the air like a tan tulip at the end of an undersized stem. Heidi reached way up and back as far as she could reach. The BALL dropped softly into the tulip. All of the runners had taken off when the ball was hit. Heidi sprinted to first base and stepped on the bag. Two outs! Neutered Bull had suddenly stopped celebrating and began to bellow at his kids to “GO BACK”.

Heidi wasn’t sure the second baseman was in there. She ran the ball about half way to second base before she could get his attention. She didn’t have the howitzer arm yet but she threw the ball straight and the kid caught it on one bounce.

He did that just before the returning runner got to the base. THREE outs! Triple play! Game over. Neutered Bull screamed NOOOOOooo! Then he glared viciously at Heidi , who didn’t notice, herded his stunned team back into the dugout and glared at the umpire and the opposing parents, all of whom grinned back at him like a bunch of cats with canary feathers in their teeth

Heidi trotted back to the dugout with the big mitt and was mobbed by all four of her team mates who understood what had just happened and the coach and mom and dad who were about to burst with pride.

At that precise moment a car full of budding ballerinas was unloading in front of the dancing “academy” next to the field. Their Fluffy tutu’s bobbed above snow white tights. Delicate pink ballet slippers dangled from clean pink little fingers. No cleats. no mud. no glory.

“This”, declared pipsqueak snarky-pants , “is definitely better than Ballet”

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14 comments

  1. For the record, the whole “better than ballet” thing is totally fact. I hated those f-ing ballerinas. True.
    Also, in the lead photo, I have just completed singing “Oh Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble” which was my favorite act at the age of 4 years.
    When I sang the lyrics, “Some say that I’m egoticial/Hell, I don’t even know what that means/ I guess it has something to do with the way that I fill out my skintight blue jeans” I’m going to wager that I had no idea what I was doing but that the adults present were sufficiently mortified.
    My mother thought this whole thing hilarious (and probably was responsible for teaching me such antics).

  2. Ha! Now that is my new favorite baseball story! Nicely done Kermit, you painted the picture beautifully. And with regards to Heidi, some things just never change do they?

    Definitely better than ballet.

  3. Shyana Martin Quasha

    This piece was so wonderful, I had to read it out loud to the Mister (who, as a veteran of many a team sport, has known his share of Neutered Bulls thus *loved* the description) and he was just as entertained and riveted by this take on our favorite everyday athlete.

  4. Great job, Kermit! I can always count on the Swifts for a smile!

    I’ve heard this story before, but it’s wonderful to get your perspective.

  5. a team picture exists of this very team with Heidi in a tiny uniform down in front of the team. Proof of the pipsqueak runner / mascot.

    but I can’t put it up from my end. I think we need to see it.

    what do you way Heidi Ho?

    DAD

  6. That was a GREAT story. And the pic at the top? Priceless!

  7. Ed Rowell

    This raises the question of the whole nature vs. nurture thing. Was Heidi born with a mutant strain of competitiveness, or did experiences like these turn it up to 11? Was she born with a predisposition toward artistry with words, or did a mom who absrbs human interest stories like oxygen and a dad who can coin a phrase like “neutered bull” show her the way? The answer my friends, must be “both.”
    Way to go Swift family!

  8. Oh
    My
    Goodness

    I want the Swift family to come over for Thanksgiving.

  9. This makes me all mushy because I have a little pipsqueak. He fielded the ball for his Brother’s 12 year-old all star team last year, ran the bases for them, all of it. In T-Ball it was pretty obvious he was really into it while the other little ones picked at dirt or their noses. Let’s hope he continues like you have and is an athlete all his life. Also, I couldn’t help but notice how similar your writing voice is to your Dad’s. Clearly the talent came from both Mom and Dad.

  10. I thought I new the end of the story as soon as I read “sent his best hitter, a lefty, to the plate”. I had everything right except for the ballerinas. Awesome.

  11. Guy Smith

    Awesome story packed with feel goodness and humor, the tulip mitt line was great and the pics were a treasure!

  12. What a fantastic story!! I love the pictures!!!

  13. Guy Smith

    Cindy Brady?

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