Likes and Dislikes, and Balls and Strikes

(Photos by Monte Dutton)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, April 21, 2017, 11:48 a.m.

Back in my day …

Ethan Jones homered for the Raiders in the first inning.

Things were different. They’ll be different in the next day, too. And the one after. Times change. I don’t believe my day was any better than this one. For some reason, at some point in age, varying from person to person, it stops being “my day.” This must be intuitive, or else people wouldn’t admit it by saying “back in my day.”

Make sense? Of course not. Don’t tell me, here in the 21st century, that anything is supposed to make sense. Today is about being technologically advanced, not knowledgeable.

By Monte Dutton

The kids don’t know history. They don’t know the history of America, or baseball, or music, or their families. No one who lived before they could watch him or her on TV counts.

John Havlicek? I could say he founded the AFL-CIO.

Willie Mays? He was a great first baseman — okay, I did see a game in which both Willie Mays and Hank Aaron played first base — but the hall of famer who played it for the Giants was Willie McCovey.

Oh, how could I have enjoyed baseball without seeing Mays play center field? Or basketball without knowledge of Oscar Robertson! Hockey without appreciating the wonder of Bobby Orr? Racing without David Pearson?

Does anyone read books about sports? (Oh, boy. I hope so.) The first one I read was about Mel Ott. He raised his front foot like Sadaharu Oh while batting. Don’t know Oh, huh? He was a Giant. A Yomiuri Giant.

That could be a clean alternative to cursing. You don’t know oh! Oh, oh! Oh on that! Why, you oh-ass! I do not give an oh what you think!

Complete Supply of Ink and Toner Cartridges

In the press box of Clinton High School’s new baseball stadium on Thursday night, I expressed a radical opinion. The Red Devils were en route to defeat against Laurens, so, naturally, thoughts turned to that eternal debate. What’s better? DirecTV or Dish? I said DirecTV was better, but Dish was cheaper. I said this, of course, because I have DirecTV, and, in fact, John Wayne in Brannigan is on right now. The same debate could have been conducted over PC or Mac, iPhone or Galaxy, Colbert or Fallon, Zaxby’s vs. Chick-Fil-A, or, most notably around here, Clemson or South Carolina.

The Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, and Zack Wofford (right).

Discussions like this are why Zack Wofford gets distracted, and it’s why the Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, lights into Zack about the balls and strikes being off. Buddy probably leaves me alone because I’m older than he is, and keeping balls and strikes is not my job.

Zack, who spends a lot of time at the high school keeping scoreboards and publicly addressing when the Voice is elsewhere, said something about how it was easier to tape six or eight shows on Dish, and I said it made no difference to me.

“I don’t tape anything.”

A senior who will be missed at the fields, courts and diamonds of Clinton High School, Zack looked at me as if I were, at worst, mentally deficient, and, at best, entering the early stages of dementia.

“You don’t tape anything?” It had the same intonation as, “You lost your car keys?”

“OK,” I said, “I believe it’s important to protect yourself from technology.”

“What’s the count?” asked the Voice.

“Two and one,” said Zack.

“I believe it’s two and two.”

“I’ve got a lot to do, and I don’t need to be wasting any more time than I already do on social media, texting, and watching sports,” I said. “The last thing I need is to come home from a trip and have six or eight shows saved to watch. If I don’t see it live, I don’t see it. Most things get rerun. If I wait long enough, and I want to see them, I usually find another showing. It’s just my modest personal regulation on myself.”

Zack would have thought I sounded like Archie Bunker if Zack knew who Archie Bunker was.

One would think a young person would be well aware that the central theme of modern life is protecting oneself from … oneself.

To Zack’s great credit, he pays close attention to what is happening now. He knows his current affairs.

We’re great friends — Zack, the Voice, and I — and I haven’t been around as much this spring, owing to fewer free-lance opportunities and this novel I wrote in three months while chained in the darkened corridors of my home, illuminated only by a lamp and the aforementioned DirecTV.

The reason for our presence, the Red Devils and Raiders of nearby Laurens, was growing farther apart as a result of LDHS’s superior pitching and Clinton’s board of directors who took turns on the mound. Laurens’ playoff position — runner-up in Region 2-5A with an overall record of 17-6 and a region mark of 7-3 — was secure. Clinton (6-11, 5-4 Region 3-3A) is going to play next week, but when and where (not Clinton) depended on the outcome of its game at home Friday against Chapman and two other contests.

The Raiders pitched Jared Cvetko, their ace. Clinton paraded four hurlers out there, saving the best for Chapman. Laurens, a better team anyway, won, 6-2.

A year ago, the best Clinton team in more than two decades advanced to the upstate final (four-team) round and finished 24-3. That memorable, cohesive unit graduated many of its best players. This year’s team is young, and it’s been competitive after a slow start, which is just as it should have been.

The Red Devils have a brand-new baseball and softball complex, designed cleverly with a concession stand and restrooms located in between, and it has something this town’s high school has never seen before: lush grass infields.

A year ago, the Voice, Zack and I sat at a folding table behind the plate of The Sponge, as the previous sandlot was lovingly dubbed. The approach of storm clouds could be testy. On Thursday, the Voice and I allowed as how we miss that view from right behind the plate but not the thunderstorms.

Ever since I started writing fiction, fans have asked me to write a novel about stock car racing. I kept it a secret while I was working on it. Now it’s out. Lightning in a Bottle is the story of the next big thing, 18-year-old Barrie Jarman.

(Steven Novak cover design)

Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced. Lightning in a Bottle will be in stock shortly.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are also available at Emma Jane’s, 105 East Main Street on the Square, Clinton.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Links to print copies are below.

(Joe Font cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.(Melanie Ryon cover design)

Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.

The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.

Follow me at Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Twitter (@montedutton), Google+ (MonteDuttonWriter) and/or Instagram (Tug50).