A week ago I learned that Lyle Alloy-Glover, a 2013 Damien graduate, passed away suddenly. It’s happened again and I cried again and I wish it would never happen again. I buried myself in the advent of a new school year in the attempt to distance myself from the sadness that is a new wound that feels like an older, still-healing wound. I don’t know why I thought it would work.
I met Lyle when he was a freshman on the varsity baseball team. I was working with the pitchers then, so Lyle and I spent a fair amount of time together. Lyle was a disaster during bullpen sessions. He bounced his fastball. He threw breaking balls that did not approach the strike zone. Yet Lyle assured me that everything would be fine once inserted into a game. I didn’t believe him. I thought it was the bravado of a freshman. Then, he got into a game late when we were down by a bunch of runs then ran up two clean innings. “Where’s that when we ‘pen?” I asked him. “I can’t concentrate during the bullpens because there’s no batter. It doesn’t matter,” he said. That drove me insane. He continued to throw the ball all over the place in bullpens, but continued to fare well in games. You know the type. You’ve probably played with a Game Boy, the guy who looks horrible at practice but is somehow amazing during the games. Sometimes the difference is so stark, the in-game performance looks like extreme luck. His teammates and I would view his success that year with a kind of awe. How was he doing it? During one practice, we played a bunting game. Lyle was the only player – as a freshman – to successfully complete all the objectives of the game. When he nailed the last bunt, he dropped his bat like a hot mic, raised a single finger into the air, then dubbed himself “The Executer.” Yeah, he gave himself a nickname.
I stepped away from the team after that season and followed the team from afar. To my delight, I heard Lyle grew into a team leader and the ace of the pitching staff. During Lyle’s junior year I ran into an old friend, a coach at a rival ILH school. We made small talk about the season and he brought up Lyle. “How’s he doing?” I said. “Well, he throws pretty hard and I think he’s throwing a cutter or a slider and we can’t hit it,” he said.
I taught Lyle during his senior year. I thought I would get the chatty Lyle I knew from three years earlier. That’s not the guy I got in class. He was quiet. Unless I asked him about baseball. That’s when I understood. Lyle’s words from three years prior were not arrogance. They were simply the vocalization of the supreme confidence in his abilities. It wasn’t bravado. He meant it. When he took the mound, he set out to dominate. He pitched through arm soreness during his senior year, like staff aces do. Some days that senior year he came to class, his arm dangling a certain way and I knew he was hurting. “What are you going to do?” I asked him. “I’m going to pitch,” he said, as if he’d been slightly insulted. And he pitched.
Wherever you are, I like to imagine you have found a baseball game. I assume that you are watching this game and you are growing gradually more irritated with each passing inning. You turn to the guy next to you. “This guy is brutal,” you say. “Get me in the game and I’ll shut everybody down,” you say. Those who hear you look at you and shake their heads. It’s fine, though. Because eventually, you’ll talk yourself into that game. You will throw heat and ungodly breaking stuff. You will walk off the mound. Everyone there will wonder how you just did that. Everyone but you. Rest in peace.