Not a day goes by in October without a young kid fishing out a Wiffle Ball from beneath a pile of leaves and running off to play out some form of World Series scenario. The rites of passage have changed over the years in sports logistics. Baseball may not be the end-all-be-all of our favorite pastimes, but somewhere, some kid has Game 7 on his or her mind.
There’s something special about being a kid. Most tend to forego practical thinking and believe that if you wish real hard, and have the right cape, you can fly off the top of that garage roof like Superman. Children allow themselves to achieve as much as their imaginations allow them. Doctor, commander, astronaut, baseball player — these are the titles we all wore once as we played on our respective school grounds. No one tells kids what kind of hard work and sacrifice goes into reaching such goals. To a nine-year-old, if you think it, you are it.
As with the end of every baseball season since 1994, the world turns its collective eyes to an unnatural square of grass and dirt to watch two teams decide who will be crowned World Champion. It’s the culmination of hard work and sacrifice over the span of several months. For many, those several months are linked together in a long chain of days spent in the training room, on uncomfortable bus rides and in the midst of painful self-doubt, that when tallied together amount to years, decades, or half a lifetime.
This post-season we watched a World Series scenario play out that none of us imagined while playing Wiffle Ball in our backyards. Matt Quatraro, a local “kid” who grew up playing baseball here in the Capital District, has climbed the hill as high as he could go. He excelled in high school ball, smacking the ball a country-mile and attracting scouts as a 15-year-old catcher in Bethlehem. He played on in college, earning Man of the Year honors at Old Dominion University and later honored at that school’s Hall of Fame. And, as many of his teammates suspected, Quatraro was ultimately drafted into professional ball in 1996. After ten years as a player, he has continued his career as the hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians.
At 42, Quatraro is living out a dream. He’s not going to hit the game-winning homerun, nor will he be on the mound to strike out the final batter to end the series. But, it’s the closing days of October. And, for everyone else he played ball with in high school, he’s the only one slipping on a Major League Baseball uniform. Everyone else who was lucky enough to wear the Orange and Black, is fishing out a Wiffle Ball from a pile of leaves and is remembering what it’s like to dream again.