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As a Kid, My Friends and I Would Play ‘Work Up.’ What’s Work Up? A Lost Art, I Guess


Everything for kids is organized these days. Whether its school, family, church, sports. It’s all organized.

When I was a young ‘un, very few things were organized. In fact, most stuff was totally disorganized! And we liked it that way.

I’ve moved into a new phase in my life, a phase where people shorter than me (but not for long) don’t call me Randy or Dad. They call me ‘Grandpa’. It took me a while to get used to that, but now I’ve settled into it plum fine, thank you.

And some of them short people play baseball. Grandson Lane. Grandson Bennet. Grandson Ayden. Granddaughter Kenna was a T-Baller. Heck, me and Granddaughter Hailey has tossed the ‘ol ball back and forth. She’d catch it all the time, and I would once in a while.

I told one of those Grand Young ‘uns that we used to play ‘work up’ when I was a kid. The look in their eyes was similar to that famous ‘deer in the headlights’. And if I recall, the response was…’Huh?’.

Turns out ‘work up’ is a lost art, back in the dusty corner, up in the attic of memories. It’s setting over there with the 8-track tape player, the ‘I Like Ike’ buttons and Davey Crockett’s coonskin cap.

So I explained: On a hot July Sunday afternoon, I’d ride my bike the mile or so into Leota, population about 200 or so. That little community had a mighty fine ball field, the one where the town team played and where we played little league baseball (see, there was a little bit of organization even back in the old days). But on a Sunday afternoon it was quiet. The old people (old, of course, being anyone over 30) were napping. And sure enough, there would be four or five or six of us that would just…show up…at the ball field. And we’d play ‘work up’.

In a nutshell, here’s how it worked: 1 batter, 1 pitcher and depending on how many of us showed up, maybe 1 shortstop, 1 outfielder, a first baseman and 1 ‘rover’ (he just play wherever the spirit moved him). The batter would keep batting until he got out. Then he’d move to the outfield, the outfielder would move to shortstop, the shortstop to rover, the rover to first, first to pitcher and the pitcher would bat.

Sound complicated? Well, nope. It wasn’t.

You’d just ‘work up’ to batter.

After this explanation, and an explanation I thought was quite brilliant, my Grand Young ‘un looked up at his bald headed wrinkled Granddad. There was a question:

‘Where was the coach, Grandpa’?

I just smiled. ‘What say, lets go play a little catch’.

Disorganized. That’s what we were. Disorganized.

And we loved every minute of it.

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