Like most 7 year olds, I could be found outside playing. I didn’t grow up with many kids in my neighborhood, so I was usually left to find games to play on my own. No problem. All I needed was a baseball and a glove. But what may have looked like a kid just throwing a ball up to himself to the naked eye was in fact much, much more. You see, I wasn’t just aimlessly throwing a ball around with no purpose. Oh no, I was in the middle on an intense game. A game played by my imaginary baseball team.
It was kind of like my own version of the Sandlot. Every position was covered, although I can’t remember every single name. Phillip was at first base, Saurus at shortstop, Buffalo at third, Rex in center, Dino in right (Saurus, Rex, and Dino were all brothers), with Thomas behind the plate. The rotation consisted of Francisco, Jose, Diego, and Antonio (you know, like the cities). This was my team. And I brought all of them to life. I’d start out as the pitcher and lob the ball up in the air. While it was in the air I run underneath it, catch it, and then proceed to throw it back in the opposite direction. But I didn’t do this blindly. I always had a scenario in mind. Sometimes I’d roll the ball towards third to give Buffalo a chance to field a grounder. Sometimes I’d throw a popup in the infield for Saurus. And then sometimes I’d chuck it as far as I could to give the guys in the outfield some work.
We played other teams, although I can’t remember the names of those players or teams. Like I said, I had my team. And I distinctly remember them each having different personalities and playing styles. For example, Saurus was the leadoff man and the speedster. Rex was the cleanup hitter and the power guy. That was always reflected in how they played, especially when they hit. Rex would usually launch one into the outfield.
Then one unfortunate day came. I remember it like it was yesterday. The other team was batting and I remember thinking “Phillip hasn’t had anything at first base in a while.” And so on the next pitch the batter hit a little popup over towards first base. I’m chasing after the ball (now as Phillip) when the next thing I know I’m on the ground. I was laying on the ground for a few seconds, stunned and confused about what had happened. I wasn’t in any obvious pain, but I remember my chin feeling weird and heavy. I knew something was wrong but I wasn’t exactly sure what. I ran inside and started calling for my dad. My sister, Laura, walks in the room and immediately SCREAMS. I was really confused. I was thinking “What is wrong??” I look down at my shirt to see it is absolutely covered in blood. I hadn’t realized when it happened, but I had run into a fire hydrant while tracking down that fly ball. I must’ve smacked my chin right on the top of it. Meanwhile my dad runs in, sees the blood, grabs a towel for my bleeding chin, and rushes me into the car. I ended up needing 15 stitches. It was fun to see how long it took my mom to notice the stitches sticking out of my chin. She promptly freaked out when she saw them.
So why am I telling this story? Well first of all, I just think it’s funny. In fact, it’s one of my favorite stories to tell people. I’ll never forget telling my parents the real reason I ran into a fire hydrant. We were on a cruise when I was in high school and we were eating dinner with all of our family friends. I recounted the story to everyone at the table. My parents had no idea that’s what I was doing. They clearly knew I was playing baseball by myself but they had zero clue there were imaginary players involved.
Aside from the comedic factor, the main reason I’m sharing this story is because it reminds me of the power of imagination. I spend would hours upon hours playing with my imaginary baseball team. I was content. I was happy. I was alive. It was something I would look forward to doing everyday. It was something I enjoyed. And whenever I look back to that time in life, I always feel a tinge of sadness. I feel sad because I don’t have that same imagination anymore. I justify it by saying that I grew up and matured. It would be a little weird if I was still playing with an imaginary baseball team at 24 years old. But the problem is that I no longer channel that same creativity that I possessed at 7. Over the years my imagination has faded and been subdued and along the way I’ve blamed it on getting older. It’s almost as if I convinced myself that having an imagination is childish. But you know what, now the older I get the more I want to live like a child. I’ve fallen into the trap of adulthood where everything is cut and dry. I have to do X, Y, and Z. Well, I’ve gotten tired of that. I want more unpredictability. I want to be more creative. I want to find the kid inside me again that didn’t need technology to be happy. I want to recapture that ability to enjoy the world in front of me. Instead of staring at my phone screen for hours I want to daydream. Instead of sitting back and watching other people create I want to be the creator.
I was a day camp counselor for a few summers and I worked at a YMCA for a year. I had the opportunity to work with kids and see how they play. Whenever I saw them running around I was always reminded of my imaginary baseball team. What scenarios and worlds were they creating? It was incredible to see their imaginations at work like mine was so many years ago. I would also hope that they wouldn’t sacrifice their imagination like I did. Because let’s face it, being normal is overrated.