My childhood dream was simple. I wanted to play left or center field for the Dodgers. It didn’t seem impossible, improbable or unusal for the Jewish kid from the Valley to have such a dream.
Maybe it was because I wasn’t the only one who had it. Maybe it was because baseball really was America’s National Pastime. Maybe it was because I was good at it and no one told me that it was wrong to dream of such things.
Or maybe it was because to a certain extent I lived in a sports bubble.
In elementary school I was one of the best athletes in school. I was as fast, as strong and as good as anyone else on the playground. It wasn’t until I got to middle school that I began to realize that the world was filled with lots of people who bigger, stronger and faster.
Even so, I still believed that it was possible. As a 12 year old boy playing little league I was still among the most dominant. I led the league in homeruns and could throw the ball farther than anyone else.
But I didn’t get to play when I was 13 or 14. At 15 I tried out for a local team and made it. I was still among the best players or so I thought. I am not really sure because I had to drop out.
We couldn’t afford it and I didn’t have the cash to cover it myself. I did manage to play in two preseason games. I got on base in both of them and made some strong plays in the field.
That team wasn’t my only option. I could have played high school ball. I was a sophomore then. I could have tried out and I probably would have made it.
Instead I let anger and frustration cloud my vision. They brought along their friend doubt and so I opted not to try out. It is funny, because more than 25 years later I sit here shaking my head at my 15 year-old self. He cut his nose to spite his face and never tried.
Boy, he really showed those guys didn’t he.
Instead of playing baseball I became a swimmer. I was good at that too. I wasn’t as good as the kids that had been swimming competitively all their lives, but I was good.
I was an LA native who had spent countless hours at the beach and at the pool. So while I wasn’t as dominant as I would have liked I wasn’t bad either.
Swimming made my body hard, cut and lean. I developed abs that rippled and noticed girls noticing me. We’d stand out in the quad and sometimes the baseball players would make cracks about guys who ran around in Speedos.
It didn’t bother me to hear that because I knew that I could play their sport but they couldn’t play mine. Swimming was different. You used different muscles and if you didn’t train for it, well you wouldn’t have lasted long in one of our workouts.
Those cuts in my stomach got to be more obvious and pronounced. I didn’t have to flex for them to be seen. A few of the girls started to ask me to lift my shirt so that they run their fingers over them.
Maybe I wasn’t playing centerfield, but I was running the bases.
It is 2011 now. I am in my forties and the father of two children. The cuts in my stomach aren’t quite what they used to be. They’re camoflauged under clothing and protected by extra skin. Sometimes I look for them and if I flex hard I can see them.
I have an active imagination and remember many of my dreams. Sometimes I still dream about playing for the Dodgers. I picture myself loping gracefully after a lazy fly ball or standing at the plate. But I never dream about swim meets, at least not that I remember.
I’m not angry or bitter about this. Life has been pretty good, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t wonder about my childhood dreams.
Originally posted here.