The Annual Springtime Love Letter to My First Love

I went to a Damien baseball game last week and saw a flaw in one of the player’s throwing mechanics. I mentioned it to him earlier in the week and thought nothing of it. Yesterday, I spoke to the shortstop who is in one of my classes, and he said “What? Today?” “What about today?” I said. “Come down, hit us ground balls,” he said. “Uhhh…” I said. “I don’t have extra clothes,” I said. “I don’t want to get sweaty,” I said. “I have papers to grade,” I said. All of those things were true. “What time?” I said. I had last period free and took off on an Odyssey to find apparel appropriate for going out onto the field. I had all my softball equipment in the car. Also in the trunk was a pair of ambiguously clean socks. I then roamed around campus until I found a set of PE clothes.

I bought those ugly orca Nike spikes because Ordonez wore them.

I bought those ugly orca Nike spikes because Ordonez wore them.

It was inevitable. Baseball constantly calls out to me with a siren’s song. I can always hear its enthralling melody, and like Odysseus, I am prevented from obeying it because I am tied down- not to a mast, but to other responsibilities. But I can always hear it. The song is nostalgic, but not like The Cure’s “Halo,” which reminds me of a certain time and place and person and a way I used to feel about her. The tune that baseball whispers is all of those things, but stirs emotions I still feel.

He broke my heart in a Mets uniform; he's still my favorite player ever.

He broke my heart in a Mets uniform; he’s still my favorite player ever.

So yesterday, I spent about 20 minutes working with the player with the mechanical flaw. He seemed to have been able to apply the change I suggested. He says that it works for him. I am thrilled about that. Standing out there in the sun in shorts that were a little too tight and a shirt that was a little too big was pretty great. I move differently when I am doing something baseball-related. I don’t understand why, but it’s not the same when I play softball. Its like my mind subtly urges my body to behave differently. I feel more spry. I feel lighter (which is a feat in and of itself, mind you). One day a while back, Matty and I put gloves on and walked to the park across the street from my friend Geno’s house. Geno had a bat and a ball. Matty and I stood about 20 feet apart from each other; we were going to take turns field grounders. Well, at one point Geno hit one pretty hard between the two of us. I moved to my left, got to the ball, and glove-flipped it to Matty. “Holy shit,” Geno said. “What?” I said. “I’ve never seen you move that fast. Phil doesn’t move like that,” he said. No, I suppose he doesn’t. But he used to.

I don't know why I never loved Reyes like Ordonez and Alomar. Maybe I was already too old.

I don’t know why I never loved Reyes like Ordonez and Alomar. Maybe I was already too old.

After those first twenty minutes or so, I moved to the second base bag. The shortstop who convinced me to come out fielded ground balls. He flipped or threw them to me, I threw the ball on to first base. My Facebook status last night:

I ran around a little today… Turned a little 2… I can never understand why such a thing makes me so happy, but those few seconds from when the ball hits my glove to when the ball leaves my hand are pure joy. And totally worth the ache tomorrow.

It’s true. My shoulder hurts. That’s what happens when I spend 10 minutes pissing rainbows 90 feet to first base. I wish I had video of it, partially to see what I look like, but mostly to see if I am smiling. Because I feel like I must be.

I am not a believer in Destiny, really. But my phone just vibrated and this is what I saw on the screen:

Ready? 1...2...3... AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

Ready? 1…2…3… AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

I suppose one day, Madison will be older and find me in the computer room watching a bunch of colored dots on the monitor. Inevitably, the Mets will screw up and I will shout. I feel like there will be expletives involved. She will ask the question that every non-baseball player in my life has asked of me: Why do you love baseball so much? I suppose I will try to explain it to her, but I know that like just about everyone else, it won’t make sense. Baseball’s boring. It’s slow. It is. I suppose I will have to wait until she finds her first love – soccer or gymnastics or dancing but please, God, not a guy. When she has, I know what I’ll tell her:

You know the way you feel about _____________________? The way that once aspects of it seep into your head, it’s nearly impossible to shake them out? How it gets so every new thing you learn about it only wants to make you learn more? The way where you can easily explain what it is about it you love, but why it means so much to you remains inexplicable, even after all this time? That’s what baseball is to me.

And she will say “But it’s soooooooooooooo boring, dads!” “So is __________________ (whatever it is she loves), Mad,” I will say. “No, it’s not!” she’ll say. “Exactly,” I’ll say.

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