Eric at bat, a hometown memory

Posted 5/1/17

Yes, I read the obituaries every week in the Leader. I also wrote the greater share of them over several decades of my career there on the editorial side. In the earlier of those years I knew almost …

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Eric at bat, a hometown memory

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Yes, I read the obituaries every week in the Leader. I also wrote the greater share of them over several decades of my career there on the editorial side. In the earlier of those years I knew almost everyone in town and often could add a little flair to the dry statistics that were turned in to us by the local mortuary. I also was the first to begin using photos of the deceased if I could run them down. In that regard I began with my Camfield grandparents.

A few weeks after I wrote my own father’s obituary, I walked away from it all and turned to living a stress-free life I had missed out on for so long. 

What brings this all back to mind was the brief notice in last week’s Leader that Eric Hermanson, born in 1959, had died in a house fire. He was one of the relatively few long-time locals I find listed these days among the obituaries. No details of his life appeared to be forthcoming, and I can in this case add very little beyond a moment that I enjoyed when we were much younger—about 46 years ago.

Eric was my son’s age. I guess they must have been about 12, playing in a 4-team baseball league of local boys. Eric playing with my son on the Green team, coached by the late Al Level. Al was one of those upbeat, non-critical types who just let the kids go out and do their thing.

I spent a lot of time around the home  plate cage during weekend action by the teams, carrying the Leader camera, as sports coverage was the favorite of my numerous responsibilities. Eric had a physical disability that had him sort of dragging one leg. He also was a bit fearful of pitched balls. He’d never had a hit that season, but he played every game. Winning was good, but teamwork was more important back in those times.

So one day Eric was standing nervously in the on-deck area where I was crouched with my camera. I remember it as if it were yesterday, there in the northwest corner of Memorial Field. I called him over in a just-between-us-guys manner and said to him, “I’m going to tell you how to hit.” He listened. “First,” I told him, “Don’t jump back from a pitch; none of these little guys can throw it hard enough to hurt you.” Then I told him to expect every pitch to be right down the middle, to be ready and plan to swing. “It’s easier to pull back from a bad pitch than to make up your mind to swing at a good one when it’s just a little too late,” I said.

Eric, full of new-found confidence, nailed the first pitch. It got through the infield and he managed to beat the throw to first base for his first-ever hit. No way am I ashamed to recall that I teared up a little. That is one of the heart-felt moments in my memory that I go back to and live over and over again.

I don’t know how Eric’s later life went. I expect his disability may have worsened over time and that life threw him a lot of curve balls. What role that may have played in his death, I have no idea.  But I hope that as the years passed he overcame some challenges by building on that baseball moment that I recall so fondly. I had a great rapport with little guys in general back in those days. I gave Mike Steinke and Tom Shute their 15 minutes of fame when my photo of them in action was accepted by Associated Press and printed in newspapers all around the country.

Such memories are the true riches of life. It’s enough to make one wish there actually were a Heaven, where Eric is running the bases in the manner of which he had dreamed as a child.

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