How I got hooked on sports: John Elway’s helicopter, the art of the change-up and the no-hitter that wasn’t

I put on my mitt at five and it tightened like a vice.

At seven: intermittent visions of John Elway helicoptering the way to my city’s first Super Bowl, which we watched in my grandfather’s basement.

That coach showed me the art of the change-up at eight (curveball: highly overrated). Papa dusted off my glasses, chuckling, when this shortstop got dropped by a bad hop at nine.

At 10, cancer having taken him from the bench, I was some-odd hits in and kicking over a bucket of balls on the way to my third career ejection. I guess you could say I was passionate: hotheaded for the whole competition thing.

At 11, I was using the couch as a defender in family-room football amid long, lazy fall Saturdays spent there watching Pac-12 action with my dad. Weekly dashes to the mailbox for Sports Illustrated. Already plotting ways to imitate Rick Reilly.

And then there was throwing that one-hitter that day in Estes, at 12, the final-inning, bloop-single marring my place in meaningless Little League history.

My best friend was playing first base in that game, and off the bat he took a circular route to the shallow fly, which found its way into the rays of the sun just before it landed with a soft plop right at his feet. He brought the ball back to me and I just smiled. Gave him a fist-bump. Got back on the mound and struck out the final batter with a nasty change-up.

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