Jul 24, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterWhen the old metal arm of the pitching machine would slowly grab the next baseball in the queue, I was at home plate, eyes on the ball, relaxed, ready to take that small step, rotate my hips, and hit a line drive.
Don Quayle was teaching me how to hit a baseball.
At his home on Cindy Circle in the early 1970s, Dr. Quayle gave me and many other Riverton kids batting lessons every summer. A lifelong educator, his interest in me as a young kid, and his excitement while helping me, ignited my love for the game that lives stronger than ever today. For that I am thankful.
His example is one I have thought about often and is a lesson we all can learn from.
As adults, we can have a tremendous positive impact on young people if we will pause and be willing to share our talents.
Don Quayle did that for me, and I am sad that he passed away last Wednesday.
Great friends Scott and Dick, Dr. Quayle's sons, had the coolest backyard on Earth, I thought. Shangri-La.
Tall nets formed the batting cage that surrounded the pea gravel that was used to deaden our hits. The pitching machine was on one end, the cement home plate area on the other and, if I recall, there was room to hit off a tee behind that.
Many years later, when placing the new batting cage with my dad on the southwest end of the Ron Saban Little League complex, one of my coaching friends asked why I wanted to pour a cement batters box.
The answer was simple, "That's how Dr. Quayle did it."
And the Quayles' influence on my youth didn't end there.
If I wasn't hitting baseballs during my summer days, I was at the swimming pool in Riverton City Park. And at Don's wife Mary Jo's gentle urging, I joined the Riverton Aquatic Team and learned to swim competitively by trying to keep up with Scott during swim practice. I knew he was a fast swimmer, and I let him always go in front of me. If I could keep up with him, I was doing all right, I thought.
Dr. Quayle always had room in his car for me when he would take Scott and Dick with him to play evening hoops at Central Wyoming College. He loved playing the game, it was evident.
Always willing to say hello through the years, I turned to Dr. Quayle for advice while my wife Tracy and I were running our community's recreation programs. He was always willing to provide us his support.
I also remember that he would bring the football officials he was training while a professor at Central Wyoming College to our seventh-grade football practices and that he worked as an official while I was a kid.
But it was the summer mornings I got to spend with him hitting baseballs that I remember the most. At the end of each session, we played a game where we each would get three outs. He never would buy that the pop flies I hit were home runs.
"Hit line drives," he said, which was advice I never forgot.
Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!
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