Play Ball

What potential lies in a field under the night sky? (via Mani Binelli)

“I miss so many things.”

She was lying on a blanket, staring at the stars. Before everything happened, you would never see that many stars in the sky. But with the nearby city all but shut down, the light pollution was at a minimum. It reminded her of summers upstate when she was young, how the sky looked like something out of an astronomy book, nothing like they would see at home, so close to the city. For a minute she was back there, back on the deck at the upstate house, back to being 10 years old, her parents and sister there with her. “I think I miss things more than I miss people.”

“I miss music.” It was the first thing he thought to say. He’d been awkward around Amy since the beginning, wanting to shield her from the devastation of what happened, but not wanting to act as if he was trying to be a substitute father. He needed to find a balance, one where he could keep this teenager safe from her own emotions, oversee her but not overstep his bounds. He missed his kids. He missed being a father.

“I miss school, believe it or not.”

“Really?”

“I miss the structure of it.”

They sat in silence for a while, alternating between watching the stars and watching the others interact. There were about 30 of them who had taken over houses in the Mill Pond area after everything happened and they’d meet once a week at the park to talk and plan and just feel like there was some semblance of society left.

“I’ll tell you what I miss the most, Danny.” She paused and he thought he heard a catch in her voice. It had been months since she cried or showed any emotion over the losses she suffered and he didn’t know if she was over it all or just suppressing everything.

“I miss baseball.”

It wasn’t what he expected to hear and he nearly laughed. Instead he said nothing and let her go on.

She got up. There was a baseball diamond just beyond where they had gathered and she walked toward it without saying anything. Danny followed. When she reached the field, she stood at home plate and mimicked swinging a bat.

“I miss night games. I miss the crack of the bat. I miss the cheers from the crowd and the calls of the umpire. But mostly, I just miss the normalcy of baseball. As f—– up as the world could be, as crazy as our lives got, there was always baseball to look forward to. Baseball season is like eating grilled cheese when you feel sick. Was. It was.”

She jogged to first base and Danny walked behind her.

“I miss listening to games on the radio, the way the sound echoed in my bedroom at night. I miss keeping score. I miss looking at the standings every morning. I miss that normalcy. Baseball was normal.”

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She ran to second base, stopped, kicked at it. “When it was winter and there was no baseball, looking forward to the new season was what kept me from going stir crazy when it was too cold and snowy and dark to do anything but mope. I’d read all the baseball blogs. I’d keep up with the rumors. I’d count the days to pitchers and catchers.”

She walked to third base. “But that’s all gone. I’ll never hear a bat connect with a ball again. I’m forever stuck in winter, waiting for baseball season to come. Forever.”

She ran home, emphatically stepped on the base, then raised her arms in the air as if she scored a run. She cupped her hand over her mouth and made a noise approximating the sound of a crowd cheering.

Danny didn’t know what to say. He just wanted to let her talk, let her get it all out. He wondered if she was speaking in metaphors or if she really just missed baseball that much.

“I wonder if Noah Syndergaard made it, or if he’s gone, too.”

She started crying then, and Danny did what he would have done with his own kids. He gathered her up in his arms and let her cry.

“I’d give anything to have just one more night of baseball. One more night to feel normal. I don’t even know what normal is any more.” She let Danny hold her for a while. He smelled like her father. Normally it made her sad, but tonight, for some reason, it was comforting.

“Let’s head back. It’s getting late.” They joined the others, who had started a small bonfire and were talking about television shows they loved. Seemed to be the night for reminiscing.

The next week Amy wanted to bow out of the meetup. She’d been feeling bad all week and wasn’t in the mood for socializing. She wanted to stay alone in the house, have some time to herself in world where she shared a home with 12 people. But she knew too much thinking would lead to no good and when Danny softly cajoled her to come out, she decided to go.

They got to the park late in the afternoon. It was spring, and the days were lasting a little longer. Spring. Amy let out a small sigh.

“What’s Dave up to?” Dave, who had taken over the house three doors down from them, was unpacking what looked to be like body bags from his car.

“Why don’t we go see?” Danny was smirking a bit and Amy suddenly felt uneasy, as if she were about to be the brunt of a practical joke.

But when she got to the car, she saw what Dave was unpacking. Canvas bags. Canvas baseball bags. In those bags were bats and gloves and balls and bases.

“What’s going on?”

“It’s spring. It’s baseball season.”

With 30 of them, there were enough people to form two teams and have spectators cheering them on. There were no uniforms, no bleacher seats, no bright lights to play under. There was just a bunch of survivors looking to pretend for a couple of hours like everything was normal.

“You put this whole thing together?” Amy was sitting on the bench next to Danny, waiting to pick sides.

Danny grinned. “I did good?”

“You did good.”

Twenty minutes later, someone shouted “Play ball!” Amy stood at the plate, bat poised on her shoulder. Dave threw a soft pitch toward her. The ball landed squarely on the bat as she swung, making that cracking sound Amy so longed to hear.

Amy put her head down and ran toward first base. People cheered. It was baseball season again.


writer, civil servant, yankee fan from birth
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Dennis Bedard
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Dennis Bedard

This piece illustrates something about baseball that the modernists (and you know who you are) fail to understand. Michele is onto something. Baseball is not temporal. Actually, attending and watching a game is pretty damn close to being an accoutrement to what a fan can experience. I remember attending my first major league game in 1967 at Fenway Park. I remember the game but what still sears my memory is the deep green grass and the green monster. While the sound of the bat hitting the ball was neat, the taste of the hot dogs and roasted peanuts was more… Read more »

CRPerry13
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CRPerry13

My favorite part about this comment is how your first reaction to a nice thought piece was to turn it into a straw man slaying of “modernists,” whatever that means.

channelclemente
Member

Arithmetic allergy??

eely225
Member
Member
eely225

Love it