- When I think of baseball in it’s simplest form, I have to look back to my days as a kid, playing games like stoop ball, box ball or stickball. The development of eye-hand coordination happened here as we would spend hours playing these simple games trying to hit that small sweet spot on a broom stick that would propel a 29 cents ‘Spaldeen’ down the street.
I would spend hours by myself throwing a ball off of a wall, trying to hit a spot the size of a dime and then getting ready to catch it as it came back to me getting closer and closer to the wall, challenging myself to make every catch.
When winter came, I would be down in the basement of my home, hitting the wall down there. My Mom would be yelling from upstairs for me to knock it off. My Dad would just smile and tell her to leave me alone. As I got taller my hand would skim the ceiling, so I learned to bend my back to get lower.
I was learning pitching skills on my own, no coach and no videos to watch. Just my wall and a ball. Simple creative things we did back then, that resulted in the development of a ball player. Growing up as the only boy with two older sisters, that wall was my brother. It was always there for me when I needed to have a catch.
The neighborhood was filled with baby boomers and we were always playing something outside, but I could never get enough. When throwing balls at my fathers garage, I broke so many shingles that I learned how to fix them myself before he got home.
My Dad would come home from a long day at work, we would have dinner and I would ask, “Ya wanna have a catch?” He never said no. Years later when I was throwing pretty hard, he had to stop catching me. By then all those years of self development made me the first pick in the 5th round of the 1968 January MLB draft by the Oakland A’s, number 75 overall as a pitcher.
My wall is still there and I have visited it from time to time with a small smile on an older face. Yet today I look back on all of this with mixed emotions. My passion for baseball has held me back at times and yet has given me an amazing life, filled with good memories.
The long hours of me and my wall will always be a special time for me. But those catches with my Dad, mean more to me than anything that came out of all of this.
Over the years, I have always known that he would never say no to a catch with his son, not so much because he wanted me to be a ball player, but because he loved me.
William Coppola just completed his 40th year in the game of baseball. He has been a coach, instructor and advanced scout.