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I'm hoping this Sport Illustrated cover should've read, '2016." Go Astros!

Sliding Into Home

The story below is one of my favorite ones.

It’s a baseball story.

But about much more than baseball.

It’s about family and (attempting to) live the regret-free life.

The Old House, Cover
“The Old House” is Curt Iles’ second short story collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Curt Iles book, The Old House (2002)

Sliding into Home . . . with no Regrets

 

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.

– Mark Twain

 

 

Last Sunday was Father’s Day. As a special present for me, DeDe and the boys surprised me with tickets for all of us to travel to Houston to watch the Astros and Texas Rangers play baseball.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a good baseball game, especially when I’m going with my family. To sit in the stands and just soak in the atmosphere of a major league game is something I’ve always loved. And whether it is because of heredity or environment, my three boys enjoy playing and watching baseball together as much as I do.

Houston is three hours from our home. We get an early start for this afternoon game. We have a family rule to arrive at the park in time to see batting practice. The trip passes quickly as we visit and enjoy each other’s company. I think of how precious and priceless this time together is for the five of us. With a son in college and another set to graduate, it is harder to get us all together at one time. So, I’m going to attempt to make time slow down and just drink in this special day.

Upon arrival at Enron Field, we stand just outside the entrance waiting for the gates to open. This is only the second season for Enron Field. Prior to that, the Astros played at the Astrodome for over thirty years.

My boys thought there was only one place to see a baseball game, and it was at the Astrodome. When the season ended and Enron field was set to open, it felt as if we were losing a longtime friend. The boys were very skeptical about this new park.

However, during the 2000 season we saw several games and grew to love this new ballpark. Baseball is a game meant to be played on grass, not Astroturf, and it was good to see the sky from a major league stadium. Today, as we stand in line eager to get in, we hope they will have the retractable roof open.

All around us are fans just as excited as we are. Most are dressed in Astros colors, but a good number sport the logo and colors of the Texas Rangers. This is the first year these two Texas teams have played in the regular season, due to their being in different leagues.

After what seems forever, the gates open, and we hurry in to get strategic locations for snagging balls during batting practice. Terry goes down to the stands along the dugout hoping to get an autograph. Already there is a growing excitement in the park as other early arrivals stream into the park.

Finally, we settle into our seats, while enjoying a high-priced ballpark lunch. There’s something about a hot dog at a ballpark. It just tastes better, even if it’s washed down with a three-dollar coke.

The game is a good one. A record crowd of over forty thousand fans packs the stands. Judging from the crowd noise, the Astros have most of the fans, but the Ranger faithful hold their own. On this day, their team leads 6-2 late in the game.

With the final out we stand and stretch, contemplating the long journey home. Just as we start up the ramp from our seats, the public address announces, “All right, dads, this is your special day. Come on down because all fathers get to run the bases.”

All four members of my family look at me. My first impulse is to say, “Look, we are going to be late even as it is, I think we’ll skip this.” Then the thought hits me, “If I don’t run those bases today on that field, I’ll probably never get another chance.”

I think to myself, “I’m forty-five-years old and I know I’ll look pretty silly out there running in my shorts and loose-fitting sandals!” But then another thought collided with the previous one. I say to myself, “If I don’t run those bases, I’ll regret it to my dying day. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do . . . and I’m going for it.”

With that, I hand my camera and daypack to DeDe. The boys all laugh as they realize I’m going for it. At the first jammed exit, I start to turn around and go back to my family. It just seems as if the time and trouble to run the bases isn’t worth it.

But I keep asking myself if I’ll regret it if I don’t follow through. Finally, I get to the long line of men snaking down onto the field.

As the line moves down and my turn nears, I make a plan. Since this is probably my only opportunity to ever do this, I’m going to slide at home plate. Once again the two voices collide in my mind. Safe Curt says, “Don’t do it. You’ll just look silly.” Nevertheless “Adventuresome Curt” answers back, “Go for it. You only go around once in life and this is your chance.” I remember that old commercial of my younger days, “You only go around once in life, so you’ve got to grab all of the gusto you can.”

So I tell myself, “Go for it.” When my time comes, I get a short lead off first, and then I take off for second.  Then I round second headed for third. It’s at that point that I hear my boys calling from the stands, “Slide, Daddy, slide.” They’ve come down on the third base side to cheer me on.

As I approach the plate, I think about how grainy the cinder is which they use on a major league field. I know my shorts won’t protect my legs. Once again it is a crisis point in my mind. I even consider a halfway slide to appease both voices in my head.

But I know I must slide the only way I know—full speed and all out. And that’s just what I do. I glide through the dirt with my left leg tucked under my right. I hit the plate and get up as quickly as my body will allow me. An Astros official, standing at the plate to keep runners from stealing dirt or grass, loudly signals me out and gives me the thumb in dramatic fashion as he loudly says, “You’re outta there. Now keep on going.”

As I brush the dirt off my behind, I tell this ‘ump,’ “No way ump, I got under that tag.”

It’s a good feeling as I walk through the stands to catch up with my family. As I look down at my leg, I begin to brush the cinders and dirt off my leg.

My leg is bloody and stings like crazy. However, I know I would do it again and do it in exactly the same way. As we walk to our vehicle, I think about how many times I’ve avoided risks because of too much concern as to what others would say or think. How many times have I avoided “sliding” because I might get called out, or worse—ridiculed and scoffed at.

As I’ve gotten older, I rely less and less on playing it safe because of fear of looking stupid. As the days and years go by, the Latin term, “Carpe Diem” which means, “Seize the day,” resounds in my mind.

I left this lucky Astros cap in
I left this lucky Astros cap in Uganda. It was mailed home to me.

I’ve found that many times where I would previously have taken the safe route and barely touched the plate as I ran by; I now know the importance of “sliding into home.” My mindset now is, “Will I regret not doing this down the road?”

It means lovingly tending our many relationships. Steven Covey in his excellent book, First Things First states, “No man on his deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office,’ but many men have lamented at not spending time with, and investing in, their families.”

“No regret” living is not a license to do as we please and hurt others or ourselves. Trying to live with no regrets is simply doing whatever is important each day. Just as importantly, it also means not doing anything we would regret later.

Sliding home with no regrets—it’s what I want to do in my life, everyday and in every way.

I'm hoping this Sport Illustrated cover should've read, '2016." Go Astros!Postscript: Enron Park became Minute Maid Field and the Astros won the World Series in 2017. I believe they have the team to win again this year.

 

 

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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