The thing about having fucked up eyesight is that you only notice when someone else fills you in. If you break a limb or something like that, you have some sort of frame of reference to determine that something went wrong with you. You know there's not supposed to be pain, or swelling, or your tibia sticking out of your leg. But your eyes? You can do years of damage to them without ever noticing, until one day you suddenly notice you've masturbated your way out of any future athletic success.
Baseball was my favorite thing in the world when I was a kid. Playing, reading, talking, watching, anything baseball. If I couldn't find anyone to play with me, I'd play by myself, tossing a tennis ball up in the air and smacking it against the fence so I wouldn't have to chase it. I never particularly liked organized Little League ball; the parents were too intense, and after taking a liner off my nutsack when I was 8 I was always afraid that I'd get hurt. But I was a good player. I rarely left the infield positions, which means I was at least the fourth best fielder on the team, and I was good enough at putting the ball in play and quick enough that I'd usually bat first or second. I even made a few all-star teams during machine-pitch ball. In terms of small-time youth baseball, I was pretty good.
My first year of kid-pitch went okay; I was one of the best players on the team, but we finished 0-12-1. My second year of kid-pitch? A completely different story. Since I was moving to seventh grade, I had to move to a league for older kids; I quickly became the smallest, weakest, and second youngest kid in my dugout. These kids threw heat, too. By the time I recognized where any pitch was going, it was already past me. Pitchers quickly learned that I couldn't hit what they were throwing, so 3 or 4 fastballs with a weak swing or two mixed in quickly became my routine in the batter's box. I dropped to dead last in the order pretty quickly.
I was humiliated. I sucked so bad at hitting. I could still field and throw, so I figured I'd just take extra batting practice and that would sort me out. The coaches didn't want to tell me not to, although they probably knew it was futile. So I'd stay after practice some days and have a coach or kid pitch to me, where I continued to not hit the ball.
One day after practice, one of the better players on the team pitched to me. I don't remember this particular kid's name, but he was big and kind of a prick, like most of the guys on the team. After a few warm-up pitches, I step in the box. First pitch, he yells, "Inside!" I figured it would be inside. I saw the ball the entire way, until it hit me square in the jaw underneath my helmet and knocked a tooth in the back of my mouth loose. I'm surprised it didn't do more damage. I didn't fall, but I staggered halfway towards the dugout with a weak yell.
The coaches were obviously concerned, but I was too embarrassed to admit how much it had hurt. I figured they'd think I was tough if I shook it off.
"Sorry man, I didn't mean that," the pitcher said. I was sort of comforted by the fact that he wasn't being a prick now like he usually was.
My jaw was throbbing, and now I was really embarrassed. In some weird, in-the-moment sort of logic, I figured that I would show all of them by becoming a good hitter from this exact point on, and that the next pitch I'd get I'd smack the shit out of. I had nothing to lose, right?
The next pitch, I swung and missed. Actually, there really wasn't a next pitch. The pitcher could see my eagerness and went through his wind-up pretending to throw, only he held onto the ball like he was screwing with his dog playing fetch. I wouldn't have been able to see it if he had pitched it, so it's not like I knew the difference.
This made the pitcher cackle and loudly call me terrible, and the coaches got pretty angry at him for trying to show me up (and succeeding). The extra session ended there, mercifully after two pitches. I spit the tooth out discreetly when no one was watching. That was the one thing I really didn't want people to find out, for some reason.
I quit baseball at the end of the season and got horrible, constantly-broken glasses within six months. Now I like soccer.
My only other real vivid memory of that season was my one real buddy on the team, a kid called Kevin. He was younger but bigger than I am, but he sucked too, so we were buddies by default. Kevin was diabetic; I grew up in the South, so of course. Anyway, one day before or after a game me and a few other kids started giving Kevin the business, and we ended up chasing him around the outfield throwing fun-size candy bars at him while he cried and claimed he was getting ill from them. I'd feel more guilty about this, but you have to be pretty fucking dumb to think getting hit in the back with a candy bar that's still in its wrapper would aggravate your diabetes. Kevin was kind of stupid in hindsight.