My First Baseball Team: Big Brothers

Craig Dunning, Richard Cox, and David Cox at the field before their game, Summer 1973.

Craig Dunning, Richard Cox, and David Cox (l to r) at the field before their game, Summer 1973.

My introduction to baseball came in the Summer of 1973. I was seven and intended to spend a few weeks with my cousins Richard and Donna in Oklahoma City. Richard invited me to play on his baseball team, the Big Brothers of OKC, whose season had already begun.

The first hurdle was to get permission from my parents, which went fairly smoothly because they expected that I would not want to stick with it and would come back home to Dallas before too long. The second hurdle was my age. I was seven, but the team was for nine-year-olds. My aunt Linda said, “we’ll just tell them that you are nine and you can play.” That’s what we did just before a game, and I was on the team without even the first practice. The coach went and got a uniform out of his car and told me to get dressed.

Craig Dunning in Big Brothers uniform, Oklahoma City, Summer 1973

Craig Dunning in Big Brothers uniform, Oklahoma City, Summer 1973.

I had not played baseball before, so there was a lot to learn. In my first game, I was placed in right field and was told to throw the ball back and forth with the center fielder. Since this was all new, I really had no idea how to throw nor, more importantly in this case, how to catch a ball. I threw the ball to the center fielder; he caught it and threw it back to me. As the ball approached, I stuck my glove in the air for my first catch. However, the ball descended right past my outstretched hand and hit me squarely in the right eye. I cried, my eye immediately swelled up, and I had my first baseball scar: a big black shiner.

At my first at bat, I watched four balls go by, earning a free pass. The umpire said, “Ball four, take your base.” I dropped my bat and proudly ran down to third base. I was as raw as they come. I’m sure the spectators laughed as my coach re-directed me across the field to first base, but I didn’t care.

I ended up staying in OKC the whole summer. Each week when my mom called to check on me, she would ask if I was ready to come home. To her surprise (and disappointment, I think) I always said, “No, I still have baseball.” In the Summer of 1973 I fell in love with baseball, which set the course of my childhood. Every spring and summer from then on, was dedicated to baseball.

Craig receives his first trophy, Summer 1973.

Craig receives his first trophy, Summer 1973.

 

 

Comments

  1. Yes Craig it was disappointment on my part when you didn’t want to come home. But I am so proud of you for having the “stick-to-it-ness” to stay. It says a lot about your character. I am so glad that you fell in love with baseball and that your dad and I got to share that time with you.

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