Drayton Hester, son of legendary NFL kick returner Devin Hester, is already on the field and turning the ankles of his opponents into powder.
I love that Hester put “2029” on the video, just to give us a little something to look forward to in 10 YEARS TIME. Either way, I’m still in awe of Drayton’s ability to break ankles like Kathy Bates in Misery, so it got us thinking about our own youth sports past, more pointedly the times we were athletic and felt like superstars ourselves — if only for a moment.
What’s the most athletic thing you ever did in sports?
Flipping like a boss.
OK, so I was a kid at camp and we went to one of those gymnastics places. I weighed like four pounds so I could flip through the air pretty easily. I took it upon myself to try and flip off a trampoline into one of those foam pits and I did it! Except then my knee went into my face and my teeth busted open my lip and I had to go to the hospital.
I nailed the flip though.
— Matt Ellentuck
Tagged a kid out in a rundown
I was a tubby little guy with short legs. Chasing down a much more lithe baserunner was probably the highlight of my Little League career. I distinctly remember my mom questioning whether or not the other kid had an undisclosed leg injury on the ride home from the game.
Pretty good heckle, mom.
— Christian D’Andrea
Carrying the team — literally.
I was a husky lad. Think a cross between Chuck from The Goonies and ... I don’t know, a small muscular terrier? Anyway, I was on the absolute worst Under-8s rugby team. We sucked. We sucked so freaking bad. It was the last game of the season and we were carrying an 0-11 record, losing on average 37-0.
That’s right, we never scored ever. I was determined to change that in our final game. As a front rower I never got to carry the ball in space, but a dropped pass gave me the window I needed. I picked up the ball and began charging down the sideline. It was pouring rain, I was covered in mud and tacklers couldn’t get hands on me. I fended off the first two, then the third — suddenly I was literally carrying a kid on my back who was trying to tackle me, and one on each leg. I probably looked like a parent, with children attached to me like barnacles, refusing to break their hold.
I kept running. I never put so much effort into anything in my short life. I don’t remember any cheering, I don’t remember the sound of anything. Everything was just focused on scoring that try. The line in sight I made one last break, diving over and becoming the first player on the team that season to score.
Then the referee told me I’d stepped out of bounds about 10 meters earlier and didn’t notice his whistle. We went on to lose, 63-0.
— James Dator
Confessions of a Little League bully
It was the summer of one of my childhood years. Little League baseball was my life. I played for a ragtag baseball team in one of the most rural areas of Michigan’s already extremely rural Upper Peninsula.
Our team was playing against the best squad on our schedule, full of outstanding baseball players and lots of wins. That really wasn’t our style. So while the team that hailed from Trenary was the trim and proper kind, ours was more like the Bad News Bears (seriously, we had a kid who used to smoke in the outfield during practice and had another who was cross-eyed who would often get hit in the face while trying to catch fly balls).
In one of our several outings against the crème de la crème, there was a throw to home following a hit to the outfield. The ball rolled past the catcher and to the backstop and bounced around. I was coming from second base and rounded third, too excited to heed the warning of our third base coach as I excitedly ran for home. Being that I was a tubby child without much in the way of wheels, it wasn’t hard for the pitcher to get to the plate and snag a quick throw from the catcher. The pitcher, who was named Chris, turned, ball in glove, and faced me while blocking the plate.
I was fat. There was no turning back. The momentum was going in one direction and there would be no attempt to return to third base. Oh — and I had never even practiced a slide at this point in my short career. So I Pete Rosed him. Totally legal if they do it in the majors, right? Baseball is baseball is...
Crushed the kid. I outweighed him by 50 pounds. He goes flying. Ball goes flying. I hit the dirt and then stand up, brush myself off, and step on home plate expecting cheers. Instead, there was a man screaming from the bleachers “Kick him out! He’s a fucking monster!” and the ump, an ancient fellow named Buck, booted me with an apology.
“Sorry, Sam,” he said with a frown. “That’s not allowed. You have to leave the game.”
As I plopped down on the bench, the man who had been screaming came to the dugout and began yelling at me. I watched as my dad stood up from where he was sitting in the bleachers and I was like “oh, man...” — but our coach stepped up and told the fellow to make like a tree and get out of there.
It was a rough moment in my sporting life. Apparently, Pete Rose wasn’t perfect. Who knew?
— Sam Eggleston
Stand up, and fall down, triple
Not to brag or anything (I’m bragging), but I was a pretty fast kid. Because of that fact, I was a slapper by the time I got to 12U softball. I also rarely hit the ball out of the infield, opting to just outrun the throw to first base.
Somehow during this random midsummer tournament, the ball did get out of the infield and I hit a hard shot down the first base line. I kind of blacked out after that, but according to an old Instagram caption this is the series of events that happened: during that excitement I tripped on first base while rounding, ripped my sock on my metal cleats, volleyball rolled, hopped up and continued running the bases. I’m honestly not sure if it was my athleticism or the other team’s incompetence, but I still ended up being safe at third base for my first, and only that I can remember, career triple.
We lost that game and got second for the tournament.
— Kennedi Landry
Dunk on somebody in a pickup basketball game
I’m probably about 20 or 21 years old at this point, and at the time had very Steph Curry-esque dunking abilities. I could do it in a game, but the moment had to be right.
Some weasel-ass guy was really just getting on my nerves the entire game, talking a lot, but not very good. So I stole a pass on the right side of the court, just behind the halfcourt line. I saw him on the left side trying to time a block.
I took one last hard dribble near the basket on the break — he jumps, I jump, pull him in with my left hand, and dunked with the right. I landed and stared at him, his soulless body laying on the court while everybody yelled.
That was the first, and last time it’ll ever happen as clean as that moment.
— Harry Lyles Jr.
Sacrificed my body for the sake of the team
I broke my nose diving for a ball playing second base in sixth grade recreational softball, but I played through the pain, got the out, and won us the game.
I’m absolutely kidding. It hit me squarely in the face because I was zoned out and not paying attention. I fell to the ground and immediately started sobbing, then ran off the field to go find my mom. Of course, as soon as I found her I wanted to play it cool and pretended it didn’t hurt that bad so I wouldn’t have to go to the doctor. To this day my nose is a little bit crooked because of it.
That was the beginning of my illustrious softball career. I went on to achieve amazing athletic feats such as making it onto my school team in eighth grade as the “team manager” because the coach felt too bad to cut me. I’d love to say I was great at sitting on the bench and being in charge of the scoresheet, but I definitely was not, because (big surprise) I was awful at paying attention to the game.
— Sydney Kuntz
Hit a home run, lose a tooth
I played Community Athletics baseball when I was a kid, which was a made-up organization that was somewhere between Little League and Babe Ruth on the age level, but not that organized. We didn’t have uniforms or official looking stirrups, but we had T-shirts and cheapo mesh hats and that was enough to have a good time with our friends.
So here we were playing a day game on a Saturday in the middle of July in New Jersey and it’s hot as hell. I was the catcher, which meant that I was also rocking sweatpants when everyone else was in shorts. (No uniforms, remember.)
My turn came up to bat and I hit the farthest ball I had ever hit in my life to that point. There were no fences on the field so I don’t know for sure how far the ball traveled but it was a majestic blast. Because there were no fences I ran as fast as I could around the bases until I slid across home plate with a dramatic flourish even though the ball was still making its way back to the infield.
As soon as the dust settled, I threw on my catcher’s gear for the next inning and dashed over to first base to help coach. Not that anyone needed a first base coach at that level but I was that kind of kid. I had barely made it to the coaches box when I felt my head get heavy and my eyes begin to close.
I distinctly recall dropping to my knees before face-planting in the dirt. That was the last thing I remembered until waking up to my very concerned parents throwing water on my face. I left the game with a black eye and a dead tooth that forced me to eat pudding for the rest of the weekend. (I highly recommend the all-pudding diet, by the way.)
I still have that tooth, discolored though it is, and my five-year-old loves to hear the story so it all worked out reasonably well. The moral of the story is to always hydrate and to not take youth sports so seriously because, in the end, all we have from it are memories of faded glory.
— Paul Flannery