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Baseball was His Passion

He Just Wanted to Play the Game

By Linda RivenbarkPublished about a year ago 7 min read
Baseball was His Passion
Photo by Eduardo Balderas on Unsplash

Douglas was only 11 years old when he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. His one dream and ambition was to become a major league baseball player.

Better known as "Dougie" by his family and teammates, young Douglas was well on his way to achieving his dream of being a Hall of Famer as a Major League shortstop, his chosen position on the team.

He didn't have to vie for the honor of being the stop-gap player because his quick, limber movements allowed him to seemingly be everywhere at once. He had joined the Little League team two years prior to this season, just two weeks after his ninth birthday.

Some time was required for the new team in the Little League conference to learn how to play together and read each other's almost imperceptible signals, back each other up in tight plays, and really perform as a living, functioning unit, just like a Major League team.

By Chris Chow on Unsplash

Dougie had given it his all and seldom let a line drive slip by him into the outfield to allow a runner to make it to first base.

His teammates who covered first, second, and third base, knew they could count on him to push himself to the limit and beyond to make it possible to tag the opposing teams runners for an out.

Their fine-tuned teamwork paid off, and in their third season, they were only ONE game out from capturing the league's Championship Trophy and advancing to the Regional Finals.

The game that brought them to the final season game was a challenge, as the weather had taken a turn for the worse and a cool, misty rain had cooled them to a chill and rendered the field a bit slick and uncertain beneath their feet.

Douglas was undaunted by the disagreeable weather, so excited was he to move on to the final game, and he had full confidence that they would be celebrating the Trophy win in four days.

Just the same, he welcomed the warmth of his Dad's car when he had showered and dressed back up in his regular clothes to go home and rest up for this coming Saturday's championship contest.

The physical rest, it seemed, came just in time, because Dougie began to develop a raspy cough along with head and chest congestion.

His mother administered the TLC (tender loving care) that she was so good at, but only mild improvement seemed to be accomplished.

Dougie was distraught that the sickness that had invaded his body might affect his ability to give his best performance in the pending Regional Finals.

The family physician examined his chest, ears, and nose, and reported the presence of some "rales and rattles" in his lower lungs on the day following the rainy-day game. He advised 24 hours of complete bed rest, lots of chicken soup and orange juice.

Never could you have found a better patient than Dougie. He stayed in bed and slept most of the day, except when a raspy cough kept him awake. By the second day after the offending game, he seemed to be improving, but did not veer from obeying the doctor's orders.

When Saturday morning dawned sunny and pleasantly warm, the young patient begged his parents to let him play in the Championship game. They expressed concern about the exertion making him sicker, but he seemed to be almost cleared up with almost no cough or chest discomfort.

Reluctantly, but with a deep understanding of how much it meant to Dougie, they decided to let him take his place as shortstop for the Southside Sluggers.

By Ben Hershey on Unsplash

Each Little League team had a doctor who travelled with them and was always on standby in case any player became sick or injured. Doc Marshall checked Dougie just before the game and at each of the team's at-bat sessions, but there seemed to be no problem detected.

The game featured a yo-yo score and both teams had to give it their all.

The ninth inning found them tied at 5 to 5.

The Southside Sluggers took to the dug-out in the bottom of the ninth with a determination to finish the game inside of three outs.

Dougie's best friend, Jamie, came to bat and on the first pitch, zapped a base hit down the third base line, barely inside the line but still in fair territory. It put the Sluggers in scoring position.

Dougie was getting tired by this time, but he absolutely radiated joy and excitement. If an eleven-year-old boy in a sweaty, dirty uniform could glow, it seemed that he did in that moment.

The pitcher shook his head at the catcher's signal. Another signal brought an affirmative nod.

Wind-up, delivery, and the ball came in fast but right across the center of the home base plate.

Dougie swung, connected, and knocked it out of the ball park, over the stands and not to be found any time soon.

Talk about one deliriously happy young slugger.

That evening, the team and their family members were treated to a cook-out with grilled hamburgers, roasted hotdogs, and even marshmallows on skewers to turn lightly tan or nearly charred.

By Pam Menegakis on Unsplash

A better day for Dougie could not have been imagined or put into words.

That was a good thing, because the next day, Dougie awoke with a slight cough again and a low-grade fever. His mother called his doctor's office and made an appointment for the mid-afternoon.

By the time Dougie and his parents arrived at the doctor's office, his cough was getting worse and his fever was spiking.

After a complete exam with lab work, the doctor told his parents he needed to go to the hospital Emergency Room to see if he needed to be admitted for IV antibiotics.

After several hours in the ER, Dougie was admitted...not to a regular room, but to the Intensive Care Unit.

By Robert Linder on Unsplash

For three days, Dougie was treated with various antibiotics, but nothing seemed to touch the infection.

Everyone in his extended family was kept informed of his condition as the doctors battled a refractory pathogen they could not manage to identify.

I was in a state of shock and disbelief. You see, Dougie was my uncle, only three years older than me, and seemed more like a cousin. I admit that my memories of this incident are fuzzy, as I was only eight years old.

Just the same, I will never forget the early morning when my Uncle Clyde and Uncle Boyce, my Mom's brothers who were around her age, knocked on our door and told us Dougie had died during the night, never getting to return home from the hospital.

The experience could not be left out of my Memoir because it had an indelible impact on me that would never really go away.

My first encounter with death, up close and personal, revolved around my maternal Grandpa's oldest son (Dougie had a younger brother called Stevie) from a second marriage that began after my Mom and her siblings were grown up with children of their own.

Attending the wake at my Grandparents' house, entering their parlor for the 'viewing' and seeing as well as smelling flowers like carnations and roses which filled half the room. I especially remember a display of white roses attached to an oversized baseball and a red rose covered bat.

Life is hard for everyone, and often proves to be unfair.

Throughout the years, the passing of Dougie has not been forgotten, but kind of overshadowed by life's intense and routine experiences.

Since that time, thanks to my baseball-loving brother, I have watched many baseball game and learned to love them. I often remember Dougie and wonder how far he could have taken it...maybe to the Hall of Fame...but that last game was "one brief shining moment", his own Camelot!

extended family

About the Creator

Linda Rivenbark

I believe in the magic of words, love, and tenacity. There is a world out there that needs to be explored, researched, and written out to try to make some sense of it, and to make a better place for the children of tomorrow.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago

    Beautifully written touching and heartbreaking!!!

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