It’s Opening Day, baseball fans. Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s brimming with so much HOPE. Opening Day also usually coincides pretty closely with the anniversary of my father’s death, which was March 26, 2010. I’ve written a lot on this blog about how my dad and I didn’t have a lot in common, but he gave me baseball, and maybe that’s enough for one life. Let’s reminisce a little. Here’s a story about me, my dad, and baseball.
When I was about twelve, I played on a bad softball team. So bad that we didn’t even bother buying jerseys, we just all wore pink tops and white sliding pants. I think we were called the Pink Ladies but it’s possible we didn’t have an official name. We were bad. We were so abysmal that I was one of the best players on the team. I wasn’t terrible at softball, nor was I “good.” I was fine. I could make most of the plays that were expected in whatever position I was playing and my hitting was exactly average. I played softball because I liked it and in my family you played softball or baseball. I liked softball, so I played until the teams got too competitive for my skill level and was fine with hanging up my cleats when the day came.
This story takes place during a rare center field opportunity. The outfield wasn’t my best position because my depth perception was what you would expect from a kid who a few months later would get her first pair of glasses due to nearsightedness. I didn’t mind the outfield, per se. Most girls didn’t hit it out of the infield, so you had time to think and enjoy the day, contemplate your future as a Pink Lady, that kind of thing.
However, for this batter, everyone was ready. There were runners on first and third, and the opposing hitter had a history of giving the ball a ride. Sure enough, there was a loud crack, and a can of corn sailed in my direction.
I caught the ball because that’s what you do when you play center field. I glanced at third base and saw the runner had already crossed home plate. My adrenaline surged. I’d never gotten a double play from the outfield, and here was my chance.
My arm has never been strong. Between being left-handed and having a limp noodle, third base and shortstop were never options for me. But on this day, I was guided by something divine. I remembered to use my legs and hurled the ball and the third baseman.
The ball arrived in plenty of time to get the out. When I tell you the throw was perfect, I mean it was perfect. Willie Mays would’ve nodded in approval at that throw. It was so perfect, in fact, that it hit the unsuspecting third baseman right in the nose.
Busted it wide open. Broke it bleeding.
The girl on third base happened to be the coach’s daughter, and now I was in trouble. Why didn’t I call out? Why didn’t I warn her? I didn’t understand why I was the one in trouble when she was the one not paying attention, but it was his kid and she had a broken nose and it was such an amazing, breathtaking, accurate throw I’m sure on a subconscious level they thought I hurt her on purpose. In his defense, her beauty was the only thing she really had going for her. She was dumb as a post.
I didn’t get the double play because you have to catch the ball and tag the base for the out. Having the ball peg your schnoz while you stand there like an idiot doesn’t count. I was disappointed to be in trouble. I really was just trying to make a play.
My dad and little brother were in attendance. My dad didn’t make a fuss. He knew as well as anyone I was tough enough to handle a verbal shellacking. After the game, with my glove in one hand and my cherry pop in the other, they were waiting for me by the dugout.
I gave an extra cherry pop to my brother, and we sauntered quietly on the long trek back to the parking lot. I didn’t want to say anything because I was never really sure if I was in trouble with my dad. We hadn’t been walking long when he said the only thing he ever said to me on the subject.
“It was a damn good throw.”
My little brother nodded in agreement. Then he used his pop to mime my teammate getting jacked in the face and we all laughed.
Happy Opening Day to us all.