That third-base coach of ours looked as tall as the walls of Canyon de Chelly when he stood over there behind the base.

We were just a bunch of kids, Little League or younger. He didn't have to yell so loud. We all wanted to bat and get a hit just as much as he was trying to fuss one out of us.

Especially me. I was the smallest, tiniest, littlest kid on the team.

My first defensive play was memorable enough. It was a Texas Leaguer popup to shallow right center field. Three of us converged. When I saw the shadows, I simply dropped to a slide on my knees, held out my glove hand more in defense than anything, closed my eyes as tight as I could close them and braced for the impact. The other two players slammed into each other right on top of me.

Sunshine suddenly broke through the painful cloud of humanity as I slowly opened my eyes.

And to my astonishment, there it was.

Just like the golden egg laid by the magic goose: a big ole, white, slightly dirty brown and scuffed-by-the-bat baseball, sitting right there, pretty as you please, in my outreached glove.

I can truly say I made my first catch with my eyes closed.

***

So back to that third base coach.

What in the world would it take to make this guy happy?

Adding to the menace he imposed with his towering figure was the fact that he was a known chewer and spitter.

This guy could put a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth as big as a pile of lettuce snapped up by a full-grown mule.


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He was known to spit further and more accurate than what any of our pitchers could throw, and he redefined the boundaries of the third-base coach's box when his aim would puff away the chalk on the ground.

Yep, he was a master spitter.

A pretty good yeller, too.

They worked with me all spring on trying to find the right size bat to use. Bats back then weren't just piled up in the dugout. There were no big-city sponsors to be found for a bunch of players trying to make the best of what we had.

So, each bat we did have, I was told to try. Finally, the call was made to ask if any of the guys had a little brother, who might by fortune have a bat small enough I could borrow.

Yeah, I was the little guy.

Yell, yell, yell.

Finally, one night, it happened.

The kid on the mound threw a fastball, right down the middle. I swung, and, there it was, the sweetest sound I'd ever heard since my mother sang me lullabies.

That ball must have traveled a mile. If not, at least 10 feet.

There was no way in the baseball universe anyone was going to get to that ball before I could get to that first-base bag. There was one thing I most certainly could do, and that was run.

Safe at first!

It was known as the hit that made Coach fall to his knees. No kidding.

The man was so stunned, he swollered the juices from that great big ole wad of chewing tobacco, and he literally cried when I made it to third base two batters later.

What a night.

***

Please pardon my selfish trip down memory lane.

A friend once told me, reminiscing is fine, but it doesn't make memories.

I'm hoping we can change that, especially during this season of giving, which has plenty of opportunity to be extended into springtime.

Being an old shortstop, my favorite baseball saying is, "Spell glove with love!"

We used it in my older days to encourage each other to make a standout play. I'm asking you to use it to make a difference in a kid's life.

Each year that I have volunteered to help coach a youth team, almost inescapable is the one, two or three kids who show up with a sorry excuse for a baseball glove, and certainly no fancy trimmings like most of the other guys have, like a fancy bat bag, a shiny new bat or a sharp-looking pair of cleats.

I've seen kids with the only glove available being that of their dad's, whose adult hand size assured that the glove dwarfed the kid's little hand.

I've seen others show up with more shoestrings holding the glove together than the number of strings in a fishnet.

I've also seen kids show up with no glove at all.

What I'm asking you to do is simple.

Anyone who has an old baseball glove, bat or ball in the closet, how about sharing it with a kid who really would be thrilled to have it?

***

We are setting up boxes here inside The Daily Times to collect baseball gloves, and any other baseball or girls softball equipment you might care to donate. It could be all those old gloves in the closet, or it might be the gloves and equipment your own kids outgrew long ago. It also might be that $1 glove you easily could pick up at your neighbor's yard sale.

Please drop by The Daily Times front office the next time you're in town, and just say, "This is for the Glove with Love' drive."

We will continue this drive all the way into the baseball season. Then we will work with several local non-profit organizations affiliated with youth baseball and do our best to ensure that for those needing a glove, perhaps they can reach into the box and check one out that actually fits their own hand.

The kids who receive the gloves will be allowed to keep them. Perhaps one day, they'll return the favor.

If some of you would do this now, right here before Christmas, we can write more about it and therefore create more interest and momentum for such donations. So, please: If you have an old glove, or if you want to contribute a new one to help a kid who wants to stay out of trouble by learning the game of baseball, please help.

You obviously would have my thanks. But imagine the face of that kid who gets a real baseball glove, not a piece of plastic or a leather glove too big, too small, or with a hole in it.

Go clean out your closet or garage, or drop by the toy department while you're shopping.

Spell glove with love.

Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M., 87499; or at tturner@daily-times.com.