Sometime last week, the hardworking folks at Metro Parks started renovating the field where I play softball. When I went down to the ball yard Saturday, I saw big piles of red dirtnext year’s infield dirtin the baselines. And don’t you know, my first thought after seeing those piles of dirt was, Well, we’ll just have to play around ’em.
I have a hard time giving up on the things I love. Take, for instance, my former dog Lulu, a low-slung, stretched-out, mixed-breed, beagly canine, more ears than legs. I was looking right at her that day 20 years ago, when she ran out in front of a car. I saw the car hit her, but it just looked like a little nudge. I watched her come running to me, and she looked just fine. She collapsed and started twitching.
At that point, any fool could see that Lulu was perfectly dead, but I drove her eight miles to the vet anyway. Even after all this time, there are still days when I think Lulu might just wake up, shake it off, and go on about her business.
I don’t know exactly what to call this trait. But whatever it is, I do believe my daughter Jess has inherited it. Jess plays 16 Little League games in the spring and summer, and her season’s over around the first of July. After that, there are the Tuesday-night pickup games, which last until the schools reopen. Barring apocalypse, Jess makes every game.
At this year’s final pickup game, parents started taking the kids home around 8 o’clock. By 8:30, there weren’t enough kids left to play a game. So they just started playing catch and running the bases. Around 9 o’clock, a hard rain came. Most of the kids ran for the dugouts. But Jess and a few othersthe ones who never missed a game and never went home earlystayed out on the field.
They all looked up, watching the rain fall through the halos of the field lights. They spread their arms wide and stuck out their tongues to catch the raindrops. Each one wanted to take in the last second, the last sight, sound, and smell of their softball season; each one wanted to taste the last raindrop.
Yesterday, I started cleaning and storing all the Little League equipment. As I was taking inventory, I remembered that during our last family trip to South Carolina, Brenda traded away our spare glove to niece Amanda. During one of her rummaging sessions, Amanda had come across Brenda’s ancient childhood glove, and Brenda wanted it back. She plans to treat it like the treasure that it is by mounting it in a shadowbox.
But Brenda just couldn’t reclaim it without offering Amanda something in return. So good-bye bargain-rack Tom Glavine signature glove, which was too small and too stiff, but good enough to get one of my forgetful Little Leaguers through a game. I needed a replacement glove, and I needed it yesterday.
Brenda, Jess, and I headed for Play It Again Sports, in search of a cheap used glove. I walked up to the glove rack; hanging right there in front of me was a top-quality Rawlings infielder’s glove. The leather was supple, and the pocket was perfect. It smelled ever so slightly of glove oil.
“Yo, Jess,” I said. “Come over here and try this glove.” “I like your old glove, daddy,” she said. But I persuaded her to slip on the glove. She picked up a ball and started pounding it into the pocket. “It’s just my size.” We bought it.
Saturday night, when Jess went to bed, she took the glove with her. She came downstairs Sunday morning wearing the glove, throwing herself little pop flies. As soon as we finished breakfast, Jess and I went outside and played catch. Then we went down to the ball yard and played catch some more, right there amongst the big piles of next year’s dirt. We practiced forehands, backhands, pop flies, line drives, ground balls. Jess made a couple of Willie Mays-style over-the-shoulder catches.
After lunch back at the house, Brenda came out and joined us. We played catch all day long, until it was just too dark to see. I’m sore all over. All in all, not an altogether bad day.
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