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Barry Bonds would do well to read this story

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
In this time of steroid allegation and other black eyes on the face of Major League Baseball, it is important sometimes to step back and look at the game for what it used to be – fun. This story, contributed by reader Tommy Shirley of Hartselle, is a reminder of that important fact.
66 Cent Softball:
"Long ago and far removed, in a time when ball-playing was for fun, a five-year-old made a request. I asked mom for a bat, baseball and glove. I didn't care what I got, yet I hoped they would look like the ones Mickey Mantle had.
My parents had initiated a number of North-to-South moves prior to my arrival on the scene, and this had caused money to be in short supply. I was always told something about growin' on the tree and the ship comin' in. I don't think it ever made it. We might have met the poverty requirement, but you'd never convince us of that.
When Mom came in with the goods, I was super-excited. That bag cracked and popped and out came a softball wrapped in clear plastic secured with a rubber band. That's all that came out, too. 'Well Tommy, I got you a softball instead, you won't need a glove for that, and we'll get a bat later, just throw for now.' Mom laid it on thick.
I got that ball and set it free from the cellophane with its little 66 sign on it. I was determined to play, and with help from the other kids, we did. We threw that ball and we caught that ball. You better believe we learned to use both hands; without a glove it's a matter of self-preservation. In a bind, the chest becomes a backstop.
I saw Mom set the mop outside the dirt. 'Mom why is your mop there?' 'Oh that, would you throw that ole thing out? I've got a new one,' was her reply. Well sports fans, five minutes with scissors and I had my first bat.
It didn't take much convincing; we kids just went at it. We hit; we ran; we slid; we got out; we scored. We played ball wide open. Fun is what we had, and we had it to the hilt.
Reminiscing about it now, the mop was a thunderstick and taught excellent hand-eye coordination. The absence of a glove ingrained the fundamental of using two hands. I, along with the others, became quite good.
Work was more important than sports around our home. Occasionally, I wonder where my talent could have taken me, but I don't think about it too much. Money can't buy happiness, but it has bough me a lot of cars where I could ride around and look for it.
Sometimes, though, the night wind blows the past through me, and I don't wish I'd been Mantle, I just wish I could hold my 66-cent softball again."
– How about this year's edition of March Madness? During the regular season, the Big East and ACC were bandied about as the best conferences in college basketball, yet neither conference has a single member in the Final Four. Meanwhile, the SEC was one of the least-respected conferences and it has two teams going to Indianapolis. UCLA isn't a huge surprise, but George Mason? Who saw that one coming? That's why they call it March Madness. I'd love to see the Patriots win it all.
– It's being overshadowed by March Madness and MLB's spring training, but the playoff race in the NHL this season is particularly exciting this year. In the Western Conference, just five points (teams receive two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss) separate the fifth-place team (Anaheim) with the 10th-place team (Los Angeles). Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, five points separate the sixth-place team (Tampa Bay) with the ninth-place team (Atlanta). With just 11 or 12 games remaining for the teams in the playoff races, every game means something and there should be an exciting sprint to the finish.
– Speaking of MLB's spring training, the World Series champion Chicago White Sox have the worst record in the Cactus League with a 7-18 mark, while the Kansas City Royals are 13-9. If you ever have to make the argument that spring training records are worthless statistics, that's all the evidence you need right there.