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What a life


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Brett Erickson

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 24, 2000
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Sliding face first into dirt and chewing sunflower seeds until my cheeks were raw - damn, I miss playing baseball.

Nothing - not the start of football season, not the NBA or college basketball, and not the NHL - beats spending time between the foul lines.

At one point in my baseball career, I thought there was a good chance that I'd be playing ball somewhere at the collegiate level. That was until I was introduced to a good curve ball, which usually sent me jumping out of my shoes faster than the umpire could yell, "Strike three!"

My high school career and summer ball playing ended, and I came to the University of Arizona without realizing that I had laced up my spikes for the last time. There would be no more starts at shortstop and no more opportunies to lead off a game with a Texas-leaguer.

I had forgotten how much I loved playing until Thursday afternoon, when I went to watch the Wildcats practice for the last time before opening day on Friday against St. Mary's. I went with a good friend of mine who was one of the team's student managers last season.

He would come home last year and start talking about Ben Diggins' natural ability or Rafell Jones' hustle, but it still didn't make me miss playing the game.

That changed, though, on Thursday when I realized what a great life baseball players enjoy. It's almost not fair that baseball players get to practice. Sure, practices involve conditioning drills and lectures from the coaching staff, but they're also filled with some of the most memorable times a player can have. At least they were for me.

Watching these guys shagging fly balls and working on the hit-and-run brought back memories of my childhood days in Seattle and high school ball in Gilbert, Ariz., where I'm pretty certain I'm best remembered for taking a ground ball off the face, breaking my glasses in two.

I guess the old adage is true - you don't know what you've got 'till its gone.

I couldn't give Keoni DeRenne tips on how to field the short-hopper, and I'm damn sure that I couldn't help Kenny Huff keep his weight back on an off-speed pitch. But an appreciation for the game, that's an area where Coach Stitt could use me.

I would make sure each player understood how lucky they are to be playing baseball at this level, and how they much they should enjoy just being on the field every day.

Above all, though, I would tell the team to cherish every game and approach it as if it were their last. That day came for me and, sadly, it will come for every Arizona player as well.

After watching Thursday's practice, I'd give almost anything to suit up just one more time, strike out swinging on a 3-2 curveball and run back to the dugout to a dissapproving coach.

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