(Publisher’s Note: This article was written by Rob Semple of Ronkonkoma, NY. He is the winner of Long Island Baseball Magazine’s Spring 2013 writing contest. Congrats to Rob and the other competitors on a job well done!)
As a diehard Yankee fan, I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of exhilarating baseball, yet for me, no professional baseball memory compares to what happened in the summer of 1982, down at cozy Hallock Park in Patchogue, N.Y., when I was a twelve year-old little-leaguer.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning of a late-season game, a man on first, and the score tied at 12, I stepped into the batter’s box and the umpire, on account of darkness, promptly declared, “Last batter.” My father, also the coach, immediately waved me towards him, and thoroughly understanding the situation, whispered forcefully, “Swing for the fences,” before nudging me back to the plate.
To that point, I’d never hit a home-run in organized baseball (and would finish my career with two), but after the first pitch skidded in the dirt, I swung at the second with everything I had, and a few seconds later, watched the ball sail over the center-field fence. I threw both arms up in exuberance and sprinted around the bases, only to be mobbed by my teammates half-way down the third base line, the winning run having already scored.
Still, I didn’t truly feel like a hero until the sun dropped below the horizon. As I giddily congregated with everyone behind the backstop, I espied my younger brother, Gary, then eight, alone on the dusky field, eyes nearly closed and arms thrust skyward, rounding the basing in the same fashion I had fifteen minutes earlier. To this day, that image is etched in my mind.