Spring's Beautiful BrevityApr 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Marshall Nych
To summon spring’s natural, rejuvenating magic, you need only take a fresh look and a deep breath. Flora and fauna, perhaps well rested from winter’s dormancy, seem particularly alive. It’s not a coincidence that two of my fondest childhood chapters were written during this inviting time of year—baseball and trout fishing.
As fast as my short legs would carry me, I’d sprint to the far end of my grandparent’s backyard. Once settled, I placed hands on my knees to signal readiness. Halfway across the yard stood my cutoff and boyhood hero—Grandpa Seybert. Nearest to the house stood a smiling Uncle Kenny, bat in hand. With arms the size of legs, Kenny was athletic in every aspect of the word. A mix of parents, cousins, aunts, and other family members congregated atop the brick patio, which doubled as our dugout.
My favorite uncle would hit pop flies so high they were temporarily lost in the endless blues of a spring sky. I’d doggedly dash toward the last place I’d spotted the little white sphere. As the ball returned to the lower atmosphere, the entire family cheered as I made the catch. Glowing with pride, I’d toss the ball to Grandpa Seybert. Throwing with the neatest sidearm style I have witnessed to this day, Grandpa would return the ball to Kenny, and we’d do it all again. It’s a wonderful memory to replay.
Their support and influence inspired me. I wanted to be center fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates when I grew up. If that career path didn’t work out, I’d settle on being a professional fisherman, because one thing I loved as much as baseball was trout. A stream trickled through our family farm, and there I’d marvel at the fish’s brilliant colors. This beautiful brevity was referred to as spring, and, be it the joy of baseball or trout, it seemed to be reserved for just a short time of the year.
Pop flies still come down and fish still jump up, I still love baseball and trout, but that little boy never tried out for the Pirates nor entered celebrated fishing tournaments. But when he became a man, he was blessed to be a husband to a loving woman and the father of two beautiful children.
As one spring sprung, I was asked to coach my son Noah’s baseball team. All those great memories from my own days on the diamond surfaced, and I drew from what Grandpa Seybert and Uncle Kenny had taught me. I strived to make baseball a passion and joy for my son and his teammates. To me, part of this meant giving opening day of trout season off so my players had an opportunity to become anglers.
I took my starting shortstop to a nearby creek, one flowing not far from our home baseball field. Swapping aluminum for graphite, Noah stepped up to the plate with the rod in his grip. This was his opening day. Noah’s first swing, ushered in by the classic 8 a.m. start, immediately made contact. The most abundant fish in the pool, the rainbow trout, boasted more colors than the PowerBait it engulfed. A single species now in the net, Noah stood proudly at first.
Though a few more rainbows obliged, it seemed the fish wised up to our concession stand. Listening to his coach, Noah baited a small hook with my preferred trout bait—the minnow. A daring leadoff with an eye on second, Noah tossed the bait against the far bank. As if stealing second itself, a speedy little brook trout darted from the shadows. After a frisky skirmish, Noah was not only at second base with double digits, but also another species.
My son, his quickness often placing him at shortstop, felt comfortable between second and third base. The boy had hit his stride. Not only was he executing some well-placed casts, he skillfully played fish away from snags. The only obstacle to a third species was the brown trout. Without a doubt, the brownie finning in the hole was easily the biggest. Ignoring every presentation, it was clear Noah’s triple would be a challenge. My son knew to frequently change tactics when fish shut down. He threaded a single wax worm along a thin hook. The brown trout effortlessly inhaled the offering. A proper triple, I would have been more than happy if Noah’s game ended there, stranded at third base.
Bases now loaded, Noah had exhausted all live bait options. Reading his coach’s signals like a book, Noah tied on a trout magnet. As soon as the lure dove into the pool with just the slightest plop, he slowly dragged and jigged the morsel along the bottom. Surprising every angler on the roster, particularly Noah himself, most attracted to the trout magnet was a finicky golden rainbow.
Crossing home plate, my son had achieved a Pennsylvania trout fishing grand slam. This seven-year-old angler brought four species of trout to the net. As coach and father, I could not have been prouder. The emotions a little boy of yesterday felt as he looked into his glove and saw the baseball were the very ones a little boy of today experienced as he admired the fish he held in his hands.
Grandpa Seybert passed away about five years ago. The Noah he knew could scarcely walk, let alone catch a baseball or a fish. Yet, perched between the emerald spring waters, earthen infield, and heaven, I felt Grandpa watching us. Gazing up, I fully expected one of Uncle Kenny’s fly balls to drop out of the endless blues of a spring sky.