I learned to meditate on the little league ball fields of McMurray PA. In childhood I remember liking baseball, following the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 70’s; but I didn’t follow them closely. I collected baseball cards and even traded some with a friend; but I never really learned what the stats meant. Likewise, I joined up for little league baseball; but I was never quite sure why.
My mom would drive me to my games though she rarely stayed to watch. I do recall a game she stayed for though, sitting in her lawn chair, reading her paperback. She would pay attention to the game when I came to bat- otherwise, nose in her book. I have a vivid recollection of facing Keith Abel on the mound. I knew Keith, we were classmates. Rest assured, we were not friends. He had the perfect physique for being a bully, so… yeah, he was a bully. I had the perfect physique for bully cuisine, so… today’s lunch special is Tom.
Keith had already hit one batter in the inning, which he apparently found amusing. I’m happy to report that his coach did not. Up to the plate I step. Was I scared? You bet your ass I was scared, do you want to get hit by a baseball? Well, I followed my own coaches directive and stood my ground, waiting for my pitch (I seem to recall it was the first pitch, but I may be mistaken). Of course you know what happened, he hit me.
If you’re a boy playing a sport and you get injured, there is one thing you absolutely can NOT do – yes, Tom Hanks is one hundred percent correct, there is no crying in baseball. Happily, it didn’t hurt too badly (he hit me in the leg), and off I trotted to first base. Keith (the jerk) was still giggling on the mound when he was thumbed off by his coach. When the ball hit me I dropped my bat and glanced at my mother, who had fairly leapt from her lawn chair. I was pleased she was concerned (or at least had taken the time to glance up from her book), but I gave her the stink eye as I jogged to first, forcing her with my mind powers to sit back down. You can not have your mother running over to the field to kiss your boo-boo; in that event you may as well drop out of seventh grade and join the French foreign legion.
I did enjoy playing the game, and it never really mattered to me what the score was. Sure, I liked it when our team was ahead, but I never took it to heart if we lost. I liked the uniform, gearing up for a game was always fun. I liked the glove, how it felt on my hand. I really enjoyed catching and throwing; I never really had any native ability for hitting though (the HBP issued by Keith may have been my only base that season).
When the time came to take the field for the defense, I played outfield. I’m not an idiot, I understand physics. Ever hold a baseball? It feels like a smooth rock with stitches. Ever hear one come off the bat? It’s loud. Ever watch one come off that bat? It’s fast. Did I want a position on the infield, where all the really cool action happens? I did not. Nope, perfectly content to shag flies and get in front of hopping grounders. The truth is, I really did enjoy playing the outfield and frankly, I got pretty good at it too. Playing organized baseball taught me many things about the human experience. Through all of these hazy memories though, one memory stands to this day, crystal clear.
I’m standing in right field on a pristine summer day, hand and glove placed over my knees, eyes focused on the batter across a sea of green grass. Every sound is clear, every color is vibrant, every thought is focused. There were many times in my childhood when I would take a long, deep breath and realize that my life was never going to be any better than at that moment; when all of the elements for happiness were in place and every cosmic cog was smoothly turning. That was one. ~TH~