It was the beginning of summer…Little League season wrapped up, school was out, and my 9 year old son Logan wanted to pitch in the backyard.
He always wants to pitch in the backyard, so I have to limit him to one or two short outings a week.
So we set up the pitching mound, I grab a beer, turn the Giants game on the radio, and he pitches.
I throw the ball back to Logan and the throw is errant as my creaky knees can only handle so much catching before they give way.
The ball lands in a nearby bush about 10 feet away from the pitcher’s mound and 35 feet from where I squat as catcher.
And as Logan goes to pick up the ball he says “check out this spider Dad!”.
I wasn’t expecting much, but when I saw the spider it looked like it was straight out of the Amazon.
A beautiful majestic yellow and brown spider, sprawled out in the bush, laying in wait behind an intricate web.
We thought it was pretty cool at the time but didn’t pay too much attention to it.
That is until a week later when we came out to play in the backyard again, and another errant throw from this over the hill catcher led us to the same bush.
And there she was again…in the same exact spot as the prior week.
Did she move all week?
Doesn’t she get bored sitting there all day?
Does she have a boyfriend?
Or maybe it’s a male spider, I have no idea what the difference is.
As the summer progressed, we continued to pitch, do outfield popups, hit on the Bownet, and just throw the ball around in the backyard.
The spider stayed frozen in that same bush, in almost the same exact spot.
She sat there and watched, a silent witness to our backyard game of baseball.
We soon formed a kinship with this spider.
Before we do anything in the backyard the first thing we do is check to make sure the spider is there.
She has become sort of our outdoor backyard pet.
As much as I love spiders, I have no intention of touching this creature from the Amazon with my bare hands.
But I have “petted” her with my glove several times and sometimes she runs down her web and other times she lays still.
Is she getting used to us?
Or did I just piss her off?
One time I would have sworn she told Logan “stop throwing sidearm!!!” after an errant pitch.
Or maybe I was just drunk.
But I’d like to think the former.
I really know nothing about this spider, but I can say with absolute certainty that her favorite sport is baseball.
Because baseball is a sport of patience, a sport of discipline, a sport where only the mentally tough will survive.
A sport where you can be standing in the outfield all game and not get one ball hit to you, and then with the game on the line the ball finds you and you HAVE to make that play.
A sport where a batter has to show plate discipline and not swing at bad pitches, but still be aggressive enough to recognize a good pitch and swing with bad intentions.
As Pink Floyd said on the 'Animals' album, “you got to strike when the moment is right without thinking”.
Our spider friend sits in that bush all day, waiting for the right time to strike.
Her patience, plate discipline, and mental toughness cannot be questioned.
Her love of the game is unparalleled.
She sits there all summer, waiting, observing, watching.
She will not swing at any pitch outside of her strike zone ever. And when she gets the exact pitch she wants in the exact spot she wants, she strikes with lightening quick bat speed and ferocity.
Often misunderstood, often feared, the spider serves an important purpose of keeping the insect population in check and thus helping crops grow.
They may not be as cute as a puppy or kitten, but they make the most of the hand they were dealt in their quest to survive.
I’ve always marveled at these creatures and the ingenious way they catch their prey and stay alive.
They are an evolutionary masterpiece, and as much as I can, I’ll try not to squash a spider in the house and instead catch it and let it go free in the backyard.
It got me thinking about my favorite sports players with spider themed nicknames and my favorite spider themed songs.
So let’s count it down!
Top 5 Sports Players with Spider Themed Nicknames
5. Kevin “The Durantula” Durant – I really hate this nickname but since he’s a Warrior now and my son loves him, I’ll begrudgingly put him on the list.
4. Torii “Spiderman” Hunter – Nicknamed spiderman for his amazing catches to rob home runs .
3. Dallas “Spider” Green – The game that made me really love baseball was the 1980 NLCS Game 5 between the Phillies and Astros at the Astrodome. Dallas Green was the Manager of the Phillies as they won what some consider the greatest baseball game ever played. It made me a fan for life.
2. Anderson “The Spider” Silva – One of the greatest UFC fighters ever, you just had to watch his fights in his prime as you never knew what he might do.
1. Jeanette “The Black Widow” Lee – The coolest nickname of all time goes to professional pool player Jeanette Lee, who earned the nickname Black Widow because in spite of her beautiful appearance and sweet demeanor, she would eat the competition alive.
Top 5 Songs with Spider Themes
5. “Black Widow” – Izzy Azalea, 2014 (The New Classic album)
4. “The Spider and the Fly” – Rolling Stones, 1965 (Out of Our Heads album)
3. “Lullaby” – The Cure, 1989 (Disintegration album)
2. “The Black Widow” – Alice Cooper, 1975 (Welcome to My Nightmare album)
1. “The Web” – Marillion, 1983 (Script for a Jester’s Tear album)
The spider sits as a silent witness to our baseball game.
She has seen every pitch this summer, witnessed every ball caught, every ball hit.
It has been a pleasure having her sit in the front row and teach her the game of baseball.
She was there when Logan was trying to replicate the Willy Mays 1954 World Series catch and lost the ball in the sun and the ball hit him in the head.
I felt so terrible that day for not making Logan wear a helmet when making Willy Mays catches.
Fortunately Logan was fine and I still did not tell my wife about that incident, but thankfully she does not read my articles.
The spider was there for every backyard summer BBQ.
She was there for every Giants blown save.
She was there for every backyard conversation.
The weather is getting cooler but backyard baseball is a year round sport.
There will be a time soon when Logan and I head to the backyard to pitch and our friend will not be there.
I hope she can survive and spend another summer with us.
I hope she can beat the odds and the fierce and unforgiving competition of the insect world.
The chances are slim.
But I'll be rooting for her.
Backyard baseball just won't be the same without her.
Update: 11/10/16 - After a nearly 6 month stay in the same bush in the same spot, we went to play baseball and the spider was gone. Her web was there, and the remains of her last victim wrapped in her web were still there, but she was nowhere to be found. Is she hibernating for the winter? Did she go out to mate? Did she get overpowered by a stronger predator? She defended her space for 6 months with courage and honor. I hope she finds her way home soon.