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Enjoy Magazine

The Bonds of Baseball

06/03/2013 03:46PM ● By Enjoy Magazine
It was my Uncle Joe who taught me the game that forever influenced my life and brings me such great joy today. My Uncle Joe in Lorain, Ohio, who, because of a bad bout with polio, had one leg significantly shorter than the other, had me fielding grounders and taking batting practice at the age of 5. My Uncle Joe Katkic gave me the gift of baseball.

My father was in medical school and had no time for sports or even a game of catch. Not because he didn’t want to, but because there was no time. So my Uncle Joe took me under his wing and off to the park in the afternoon for practice - running around on his shortened leg, kind of bobbing up and down and encouraging me to “catch with both hands.”

I would go into the basement of the family home on 33rd Street, and next to the vat of fermenting grapes (they made their own wine) and across the floor from where my grandmother would slaughter chickens for Sunday dinner, Uncle Joe would encourage me to swing the bat over and over and over again until I was exhausted... and baseball was in my blood forever.

My first major league baseball game was in the company of Uncle Joe — Cleveland Municipal Stadium — I was maybe 7 years old. I walked through the tunnel and into the park and was overwhelmed by the greenest grass and brownest infield I had ever seen. And I knew at that moment, I’d found heaven in Cleveland.

I’ve played, I’ve coached and I’ve worked in minor league baseball. I grew up a Dodgers fan, loved the Padres when I lived in San Diego, and have clutched the Giants to my heart since 1979. I met Barry Bonds at a mini-mart in Redding a few years ago and I am happy to report he was the nicest guy in the world. Our meeting was meant to be, orchestrated by the baseball gods. His baseball card is on our refrigerator, as is J.T. Snow’s, and we treasure our Will Clark card and Barry Zito’s Facebook page.

But most importantly, I’ve been able to pass this wonderful game on to my family, my kids, our listeners—inviting all to enter the Church of Baseball, where the foul lines go to infinity and beyond.

Join us any evening at Softball Park, Alta Mesa, K-2 or Big League Dreams. You’ll probably find someone in our family playing, hitting grounders, running a snack bar, coaching or keeping score (though not all at the same time). Four generations of baseball/softball activists beginning with my Uncle Joe Katkic of Lorain, Ohio, and the Cleveland Indians loving life.

Thank you, Uncle Joe, for moving beyond your physical disability, for showing me the way and for giving me something constant and beautiful to enjoy. God bless baseball and Barry Bonds, and go Giants!