Mario Stories

The Last Home Run

THE REQUEST: Write about something funny that happened during a baseball game

Okay, here's a fun little story that happened back in the summer of 1992. When I was eighteen years old, and I was just about at the end of my ten-year career as a baseball player.

My bio in our high school baseball program
(I still have that same autograph, by the way)

Now, before we get to this particular story, I should probably point out to you ahead of time that there are a LOT of interesting things I could tell you about my (generally successful) career as a youth baseball player. Because honestly, when I was at my peak as an athlete (around age fifteen or sixteen), I was actually pretty good. In fact, one year, when I was sixteen years old, my coach literally told me he didn't even care who else was on our team. He said as long as you're on my team, just tell me who you want as your teammates this summer and that's who I'll call. So yeah, for a couple of years around 1990, I was actually quite good.

Of course, with me being self-deprecating at all, I should probably point out that the REASON I was quite good wasn't really because I am all that natural an athlete. Or because I had access to the best coaching, or I had access to the best equipment. No, the reason I was such a standout player when I was in my early teens was because... well...

... because I was tall

See, here's the thing about baseball. When you're thirteen years old, and you're almost six feet tall, that kiiiiinda helps you become a pretty good power hitter. Especially when the kids who are pitching to you are generally about half your size. I mean, seriously, I'm not even exaggerating here, when I was fourteen and fifteen years old, you should have seen how many home runs I used to hit. And they weren't cheapies, either, most of the homers I hit were fucking laser beams. Because I was bigger than most every other kid in the league, I'd just go up there with the heaviest bat I could possibly get my hands on (thirty ounces). And if they dared throw a fastball anywhere near the plate, it was coming right back at their face at about a hundred miles an hour.

When I was fifteen years old, and I was still bigger than everyone else, the pitcher was getting at least one ball to the face per game. That was my policy.

Here's me circling the bases after a home run in 1989
The arrow is where the ball went. Dead center.

So anyway, yeah, when I was fifteen years old, I was a really good power hitter. And when I was sixteen years old, I was a really good power hitter too.

It was always really fun to be big.

Do NOT throw this kid a forty-five mile an hour meatball

However... and unfortunately for me... this story doesn't take place when I was fifteen or sixteen years old. This story takes place when I was eighteen years old.

And by eighteen years old, sadly...

I just wasn't that big anymore

By the way, here's a fun little tip for you if you like looking at old team baseball pictures...

The kid sitting in front (with the red fungo bat) probably isn't the big power hitter

And anyway, yeah. Alas, such is life. By eighteen I was pretty much done as a baseball player. Unfortunately every other kid in the league had caught up to me in size by then (and most of them had long since passed me - as an adult, I'm actually not all that big.) Because that's just the reality for the boys in the world like me who grew early. You're six feet tall when you're twelve. And you're amazing at sports for a couple of years, just because you're just so much bigger than everyone else. But then, eventually, everyone else becomes six feet tall as well. Six feet tall, and sometimes much larger. And that's no fun. Because now, once again, you're a nobody.

Let me put it this way, in 1992 (my last season) I led my team in sacrifice bunts

I wasn't the first kid that this happened to. And I sure wasn't the last one it happened to, either. This is just the way it goes when you grow up playing sports. There is always going to be a point in your career where you realize it's over, and that you're just not all that much of a standout anymore.

It sucks at the time, but you eventually learn to make peace with it.

Look to the future, young writer. For your path layeth not with the bat, but with the pen


As touching and poignant as this story sounds like it is going to be, don't worry, it's not. It's about to get funny really quick. Because this isn't actually a story about my demise as a baseball player. No, it's actually a story about some fucking little ten year old ASSHOLE who decided to heckle me in the middle of a game. And how I wanted to take my bat, and go over and beat the everloving shit out of him.

I mean, let's be honest. Kids can be dicks.

So anyway, hunker down for this one. Because this one is going to be fun.

Oh yeah, we're going to North Dakota for this story

In the summer of 1992, I was eighteen years old, and I was on an American Legion team called Bellevue Honda.

And for all intents and purposes, I was our starting left fielder.

Left field. Like center field, only less important.

And because we were a travel ball team, in July we were playing in a tournament waaaaaay far away from home, in North Dakota. We were playing in an eight team tournament called the Delaney Invitational. Which is held every summer (even to this day, they still hold it) in a little town on the North Dakota/Montana border called Williston.

Williston, North Dakota. Try the buffalo burgers, they're divine.

In fact, here's the exact field we were playing on. It's called Aafedt Stadium, and thirty-three years later, they still use it.

I loved playing at this place

It was actually a really nice field

And anyway, now that you know the name (Aafedt Stadium) and the place (Middleoffuckingnowhere, ND), let's delve into our story.

So it's July of 1992, and I'm playing in this baseball tournament called the Delaney Invitational. And if I recall, we're already something like 2-0 in round robin play. We're three games into the tournament, and we've already established ourselves as one of the most dominant teams.

It helped that our star player (John LeRoy) later pitched for the Atlanta Braves
In the summer of '92, absolutely no one could hit this kid

So we're 2-0 in the tournament, and on the third day of play we're playing the hosts of the tournament, the Williston Shitkickers*. And that's an important detail for this story, because it winds up explaining what happened. The only reason I got heckled in the outfield was because this was the game we were playing the hometown favorites.

*probably not their real name, I just guessed

And with that little detail in mind (that we were playing the hosts), here's where I need to show you a picture of what Aafedt Field looks like in left field. Just so you can get an idea how and why this story happened the way that it did.

Left field. My home.

I wish it showed up a little better in that picture, but what I need to point out to you is that directly behind the left field wall, Aafedt Stadium has this really large metallic equipment shed. Which is where they store all their bases and chains and other equipment that they need to put away after the game. This shed is about ten feet tall, and it sits directly behind the left field wall. Which means it also sits directly behind the left fielder.

Sorry, this picture is the best I can do. There's that ten foot tall equipment shed.

You can kind of see it in this picture too.

That shed is crucial to this story, of course. Because that's where this little ten year old fucker sat when he decided to heckle me all game.

Seriously, don't ever have kids. They're the worst.

And with that, let's get into the story.

So it's the third night of the tournament, and my team (Bellevue Honda) is playing the host team of the tournament, The Williston Clodhoppers*. And it's dark out. I will always remember that this was a night game. And in the bottom of the first inning, I head out to left field to take my position.

*probably not their real name, I just guessed again

And as soon as I get out to left, and I start tossing warm-up throws to our center fielder, I realize that there's this kid sitting on the equipment shed about fifty feet behind me.

Again, this shed loomed over the left field fence.
So anyone sitting on top of it was looking right down at you.

I see this kid sitting on top of the shed, and I turn around, and I wave at him. You know, because I'm nice.

I'm nice, and I always try to be nice to the kids.


Okay, so at this point I've done my part in the whole equation. I've warmed up for the game, and I've been nice to a kid. There's literally nothing else you can ask from me as a visiting left fielder. Short of promising a dying little boy I'll hit him a home run, I've done just about as much as I can.

And this, of course, is when I get an unexpected surprise.

From behind me, I hear the following phrase.

"Hey Lanza! You're a fa..."

You know what? I don't want to use his exact words. I don't want to stoop down to the little brat's level. Let's just say he implied that I'm one of those gentlemen who might be attracted to other men. And he did so rather vulgarly.

It's a bad idea to have your name on the back of your jersey sometimes

I remember turning around, and looking at this kid again. I sort of cocked my head to the side and shrugged at him. Silently asking him seriously, this is what you're going to do out here?

And that's when he decided to double down on his attack. By telling me to... well, again, I don't want to quote him directly. But he suggested I do something to myself. That were I successful, could result in me becoming pregnant.

And from here on out, that meant that the heckling was on.

I don't have an actual picture of the kid, so here's one of Gage Creed to represent him
This also represents what I wish would have happened to this kid on the road

So here I am, in the middle of the game, trying to play left field. And this little ten year old asshole is behind me, about fifty feet away, absolutely cursing me out. And he never lets up. ALL GAME. He just never shuts up. It's like f this. And f you. And f your mother. And go f yourself. He's got the biggest potty mouth I've ever heard.

At one point, probably at the start of the second inning, I remember turning around and actually talking to the kid. I remember saying something like, "What are you, five? Shouldn't you be in pre-school?" And of course he was NOT happy with that. So down came ANOTHER volley of f bombs and f words. And suggestions of things I could do to myself. This kid apparently knew a LOT about what you could do with the male anatomy.

The Williston School System? Strong.

Side note: By the way, this next part was my wife's idea. I've told her this story before, and she absolutely loves the idea that I got heckled by a little kid once. So she suggested that if I write it up, I write it up like that old SNL sketch with Phil Hartman and Roseanne. And anyway, enjoy. :)

So here I am, getting my ass chewed out by a ten year old kid. Just over and over and over. This kid just never shuts up. And meanwhile, I'm out here in left, and I'm trying to concentrate on the game. Trying to focus on the fact that our pitcher, John LeRoy, is actually throwing a no-hitter (fun fact: he actually did throw a no-hitter, I never had a single ball hit to me in left all night). So it's kind of important that I'm actually focused right now.

At one point, I would guess in the third inning, I finally turn around to this kid, and out of nothing but sheer annoyance, I start trying to fight fire with fire. Just, you know, to see if I can get under HIS skin, too. Which I know is an immature way to deal with a heckler. But hey, nobody ever said I was all that mature.

What I do is, I point out that our pitcher is currently throwing a no-hitter. And that the Williston team (which his older brother is probably on) is fucking terrible. I ask him if they have a boys team we can play, instead of this girls softball team.

And as you can guess, oh boy does that not go over very well.

Now that I've gotten his attention, finally, I calmly explain that I have nothing to do with why his team is losing, I'm just some guy who is standing here in left field. I didn't even get a hit in my first at bat, so please just leave me alone.

He says no. He again makes some crack about me being gay.

So I say "Fine. I'm gay. What do you want me to do about it?"


"He gave me several options."

He asked me what it was like to be a... well I don't want to use his exact words... but he asked what it was like to be mentally challenged.


"I didn't have the information he was looking for."

Anyway, to make a long story short (too late), so this kid heckles me for the first four innings of the game. The four LONGEST INNINGS EVER, I should point out. Since I never got a fly ball all game, all I could do was stand there in the cold and take abuse from this little shit. And then, I guess, at some point in the middle of the fourth inning, he eventually gave up. Because I remember looking back behind me at some point, and he was no longer there.

I hoped he had fallen off of the shed and broken his neck, but my guess is he had just gotten bored and gone home.

Or maybe wandered onto the highway and been hit by a truck. That would have been cool.

And to be honest, this should be the end of the story. I mean, if the story had ended right here, this would have already been a pretty good writeup. Mario gets heckled by a ten year old. Mario has no recourse but to stand there and take it. Just on that basis alone, this would already be a pretty good story.


There's a fun little capper to this story that you probably aren't going to expect.

Because remember, the name of this writeup isn't "Idiot Child Heckles Me." The name of this writeup is...

The Last Home Run

That's right.

In the fifth inning of this game, I hit the last home run I was ever going to hit in my career.

Two years after my prime, I got one final trot around the bases

Now the funny thing about this particular home run was... I wasn't even expecting it. I mean, I hadn't hit a home run in two years. I hadn't hit anything that was even CLOSE to a home run in two years. When I was eighteen, I had become more of a slap hitter/bunter. In fact, when I was on Honda, our coach would usually bat me leadoff, just because he knew I would be able to foul off a lot of pitches, and I'd be able to annoy the pitcher.

The original Ichiro

Yet for whatever reason, on that night in Williston, in the middle of John LeRoy's no-hitter... I guess I decided to become a power hitter again.

I don't remember a lot about this particular home run. I just remember that I was up in the fifth inning, and we were already winning something like 8-0. So it wasn't, like, an outcome that was anywhere in doubt. We were going to win. This was a meaningless at bat, in a game that had already been long since decided. By the fifth inning, we were just playing out the clock.

I just remember coming up to the plate. And on the second or third pitch I got a fastball on the inside corner. And I remember turning on it, which was odd because most of the home runs that I hit in my career usually went out to center or right. Hitting a homer to left was exceptionally rare for me.

But I connected with it, and I pulled it, and there it went. Way out to left. In fact, not only did it to go out to left, it hit RIGHT ON TOP OF THE SHED THAT LITTLE KID HAD BEEN SITTING ON. I couldn't believe it.

Hitting a homer off that shed was actually a pretty good shot

Now of course, after the game, I did all the usual things. I posed for a picture with the home run ball. My mom made me hold it up for the camera, because we both knew it was probably the last homer I was ever going to hit in my life. As the historian of all things Mario Lanza, she wanted to make sure it got documented.

Behold the last home run ball

I would have been given the game ball, too. Except for the fact that our pitcher, John LeRoy, had just thrown a seven inning no-hitter against the host team of the tournament. Oh yeah, and he'd also struck out eighteen of the twenty-one batters he faced. Aside from THAT, the greatest pitched performance I had ever seen in my life, I was probably the big star of the game. Me with my one hit.

John LeRoy. Slightly better than me.

So anyway, what's the big takeaway from this story?

Well as we rode back to our lodging for the night, on our team bus, I clutched my final home run ball in my hand. And as we drove back through the North Dakota darkness, my eighteen year old brain could only think of one thing.

Was I thinking of how great it was to be the big power hitter again, at least for one game? No, that wasn't quite it.

Was I thinking of how amazing it felt to really get into a ball, and have that thing fly over the fence? No, that wasn't quite it, either.

Was I thinking of how cool it was to take part in an actual no-hitter? No. That was cool too, but that wasn't quite it.

No, if you had asked me what I was thinking as we drove back on the bus, there was only one thing that came to my mind. And if you know me, you can probably figure it out.

The only thing I regretted the rest of the night was...

Damn, if I had hit that shed just one inning earlier, I could have nailed that kid.

And that would have been SO COOL!

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