My baseball “laboratory” used to be very well equipped in all necessities: pitching mound, plate, backstop, pitching machines, cameras, tripods, JUGS gun… all of it third rate, I’ll grant you. I had no one with deep pockets bankrolling me: the set-up I’ve just described was–all joking aside–a suburban back yard and whatever stage props I could build with shovel and hammer or buy with a teacher’s salary. As Achilles says, “A small thing, but mine own.”
Now I’m trying to complete a very complicated retirement move to 25 acres in the Appalachian foothills of North Georgia. My hillside was originally uncleared except for the house itself; but I have steadily hacked my way to creating another practice field, and all my years and years of cheaply acquired technology have followed me to Georgia. The field still doesn’t have a pitcher’s mound. After pooling some lumber left on the building site, however, I found that I had just enough to build a rather sturdier backstop than what I’d used back in Texas.
The netting of the backstop turned out to pose its own problems. It was almost invisible, and one of the first things it stopped wasn’t a blazing fastball, but a young owl. My wife and I managed to extricate the little guy as he was passing into shock, and we nursed him along until he was able to fly away. I think Juanita had vague hopes that he would come back to visit… but it never happened. I’ve since overhauled the netting so that it’s mostly a much more visible wire.
Occasionally we run into snakes, always of the benign variety so far. They help to keep the rodent population down: I just don’t like them under the house–or on the back doorstep! Unintentionally, I seem to have throttled a couple of our scaly neighbors early on with the netting I was laying around my young fruit and nut trees. As with the backstop’s nets, this stuff wasn’t working as intended, and I ended up taking most of it down and replacing it with wire fence. Its purpose was to keep deer incisors off my young saplings–but the deer lash their way right through nets of all kinds I’ve ever tried.
When I call this remote rural space a laboratory, I consider it so in more ways than as a scene for baseball experiments. As well as trying to get some food sources going (who knows what our world’s troubled future may hold?), I am particularly interested in raising crops high in antioxidant. Right now, I’m nursing along everything from goji berries and blueberries to prickly pear cactus (whose leaves are eatable and nutritious, believe it or not: you can find them in some grocery stores labeled as nopalitos). The athlete or outdoorsman should always be mindful of over-exposure to the sun… and I wasn’t very mindful of that at all as a young man. Antioxidants excel at neutralizing the free radicals that can lead to the formation of cancer cells; and, frankly, we all now live in an unhealthy environment whether we go outdoors often or not. Being constantly bombarded in electro-magnetic radiation isn’t really conducive to a long, healthy life!
This is why, at any rate, you’ll see various gardens and vegetable beds rigged up in the background of my more recent videos. I’m still–and always–trying to figure out what great hitters did those many years ago to get the ball to the grass; but the sun shines on greenery besides ballparks, and I’ve spent too much of my life paying no attention to what keeps us alive.