By: Connor Lenahan
With warm weather comes baseball. As the temperatures in Boston climb out of the freezing, stagnant conditions that lasted from December to March we are reentering a world where I can consume an italian sausage at Fenway Park while cheering on David Ortiz and booing Ryan Braun. Simply put: Life is good.
While the Red Sox return to Fenway to defend their World Series title, I am making a much different return.
That’s right. It’s Wiffle Ball season. My favorite summer sport in history is finally back. Never have I been more happy to be a communications major with astonishing amounts of free time than right now. With my daily class schedule ending by noon three days a week I am able to play America’s true pastime for hours on end in one of the strongest concentrations of baseball fans in the country. Needless to say, this is awesome.
Yet, even though I refer to it as Wiffle Ball season, I play a much different game. Instead of the iconic thin yellow bat, I have an aluminum softball bat. I spurn the white sphere containing eight oblong holes for tennis balls. I ignore the actual rules of baseball to instead take batting practice. I am editing reality to try and close the gap between me and Dustin Pedroia from a production standpoint as much as I can.
This backyard classic was an almost daily occurrence at my house in Waverly, PA. Many a competitor has tried to take advantage of the short fences of Lenahan Field – featuring the ubiquitous, annoying dual trees in left and right field that swat away fly balls – to imitate the Hank Aaron’s and Barry Bonds’s of history. I was absurdly successful in my quest to become the greatest fictional power hitter in history. Over the past two summers I smashed 284 home runs – that was not a typo – almost exclusively to left field in my driveway. Technically this puts me narrowly behind Prince Fielder and Frank Thomas on the all-time home run leader board. I have an advantage over the 300 pound Texas Rangers first baseman in that I am only turning twenty this summer while he will be eleven years my senior. That and everything I do is fake while he’s being paid $250 million dollars. Seems a bit unfair.
Now that I’m at Boston University I’ve had to find new places to play ball. Yesterday was my opening day when I smacked a few line drives at New Balance Field as the sun was setting. My next goal is to pop a few balls into the stands at Nickerson Field to truly give the illusion that I have athletic prowess.
With a Sunday afternoon fading into darkness I called my great friend Jean-Luc Lukunku, self-described as the “worst athlete in the world,” to pitch me some tennis balls. Jean-Luc was dually unaware that I had not played in months and this was my first time batting out of my wheelchair in close to a year. I broke my leg last summer just as my season was beginning. I was oddly more upset that I was going to be sidelined from Wiffle Ball than the whole “my leg is in half” thing. This isn’t exaggeration either; I love playing that much. Thankfully I was able to play from my wheelchair a few weeks later and (I think) led the majors in home runs for 2013. You mad Chris Davis?
This afternoon I ventured out to play with my friend and roommate-elect Patrick McKay. We demolished pitches off one another for close to an hour. This was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve had in college thus far. There’s a good reason behind this as well.
With my bone condition I was never and will never be able to play sports competitively. This is due to both safety concerns and physical limitations. We don’t want me to break and my body simply is not built to compete. This can get frustrating because, if you were to ask anyone I’ve played around with, I’m a surprisingly athletic person. My friend Pat Haggerty once observed that “without OI you would be a three-sport varsity athlete.”
That never happened. I’m unsure as to whether or not I wish it did. I would be lying if I said that I never considered what my life would be like had I been able to take the field/court. In fact, I think about it daily. It comes with working in sports.
I have decided rather than dwell on what could have been to try and make the most of what I do have. That’s why I love Wiffle Ball season. I may not ever hear “Now batting for the Red Sox, shortstop, number seven, Connor Lenahan,” but what I can hear is a powerful ping of a tennis ball flying off my bat. Is it the same? No. Is it still special? Absolutely.
I, unfortunately, live a life where many “normal” experiences are those that I will never experience. That’s why I take every opportunity I can to compete. Whether it be by playing a hacked version of baseball or pool basketball (full disclosure: I am the Ray Allen of pool basketball), I feel like I’m finally able to play like my friends and family are. I have been blessed with people that do not question these activities but instead fully commit and enjoy them. It’s touching to me that so many of my friends and family are willing to accommodate the rules to allow me to compete. It’s created some of my favorite memories.
That’s why I’m happy to be back playing Wiffle Ball. I feel active and a part of athletics again. I’m happy. All from ripping doubles in a Boston park or a driveway. It’s simple, yes, but it’s one of the best parts of my life. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on my swing to make a run at Bonds’s home run record of 762 before I turn 25.
As with everything else in my life, I ask, “that’s keeping me from doing it?”
Nothing. Nothing at all.
Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be contacted at email@example.com