Sunday meant scrubs

To my wife, scrubs means the “uniform” she wore every day in the operating room.
To TV viewers, “Scrubs” is a program about hospital interns.
To young people, “Scrubs” is a video game. It’s also a derogatory term for an annoying game player.
But to me, the word scrubs means something altogether different. It means baseball.
And Sunday afternoons at the Pittston Little League field.
I was a lousy Little League player, couldn’t get out of my own way. But as a teen, I became a darned good, if I must say so myself, Little League coach. Well, assistant coach, helping my Uncle Eddie with the Miners Bank team.
Little League was so different then, the 1960s. Playing baseball was about the only thing young boys wanted to do. If they weren’t playing a league game, they were practicing. If they weren’t playing or practicing, they were “choosing up” a game on a sandlot. And if they weren’t doing any of these things, they were playing catch.
Even if they were all alone.
It wasn’t unusual in those days to see a kid in his front yard throwing a ball up in the air as high as he could and catching it when it came down. Or maybe throwing it against a wall and “fielding” the grounders that came back. I, myself, did both of those things plenty of times.
There were no Little League games scheduled on Sundays and no practices, either, and Uncle Eddie, as dedicated a coach as one could find, decided to do something about that. Scrubs was the answer.
Word went out (kid to kid, parent to parent, there was no Facebook of course) that any kid who wanted to play scrubs on Sunday afternoon was welcome. Just show up at the field after Sunday dinner (there was Sunday dinner in every home back then).
And you did not have to be a member of the Miners Bank team. All were welcome.
Uncle Eddie would unlock the gate and we’d get out all the equipment: balls, bats, helmets, catching gear, water buckets, bases, resin bags. Taking care of all that stuff was one of my jobs.
As soon as we had enough kids, the game of scrubs would begin and last all afternoon. Players came and went as they wished.
Scrubs is a form of practice, but way more fun. Some may say even more fun than actual games. A big part of that is no one keeps score.
It worked like this. If we had 13 players, which we usually did, nine of them would take a position on the field. The other four would bat.
As long as you did not make an out you kept batting. But when someone did get out, that player would go to right field and everyone else would rotate, right fielder to center, center to left, left to third base, and so on, with the catcher becoming the pitcher and the pitcher coming in to bat.
Another part of the fun was that everyone would wind up playing every position. On regular teams, the positions of short stop or pitcher were only for the stars. But in scrubs, everyone got to play short, everyone got to pitch.
If we had too many players, or not enough, we’d improvise. Add a fourth outfielder or a fifth hitter if there were more than 13 kids, employ an “invisible” runner or two, if there were fewer.
The point of scrubs was to have fun, so there was nothing that could not be worked out. Sometimes, a kid who seemed to never get out and theoretically could bat all afternoon, would willing grab his glove and head out to right field in order to give everyone else a chance.
There’s a term for that behavior. Sportsmanship.
Uncle Eddie died in February and since then I find myself thinking of him often. Today those thoughts turned to scrubs. And some of the most marvelous Sunday afternoons of my life.

Ed Ackerman