I’ve had a lot of unpleasant experiences with baseball. My parents, as per 90s suburban parenting rules, signed me up for little league at a very young age, an age where motor skills and the ability to understand basic causation is still developing, and it’s unreasonable to expect any sort of logical gameplay.
I was a panicky child, and nearly blacked out with anxiety every time a ball whizzed my way. I rectified this in most sports by simply avoiding the ball. I would take pains, in soccer or basketball, to LOOK like I was going for the ball, but then – oh no, that other kid’s faster…
This doesn’t really work in baseball, though. When the ball comes your way, it’s all up to you. I remember playing a game at the age of ten where, for some reason, I had been selected to be first baseman. The batter cracked the pitch somewhere into left field, and I immediately turned to face him as he charged towards me, closer and closer.
“Oh no!” I thought. “He’s gonna get here before the ball!”
But he didn’t. The ball slammed into my temple just then, causing me to pass out and collapse over the plate as he was nearing it.
I would love to say the ball was resting on my back, and I got him out, crushing the other team and spiriting us to the championships, but that didn’t happen. I just kinda woke up a few seconds later to the adults looking concerned and my teammates looking annoyed.
It’s uplifting experiences like these I brought with me to Fenway Park in Boston last weekend.
When my friend, who for the purposes of this article we will call “Aneela,” invited me to the game, I joked I was going to wear my Yankees hat. However, I don’t own such a hat, or any kind of sports-team wear. That’s because I’m completely detached from spectator sports, to the extent that I say things like “sports-team wear,” because I honestly don’t know what to call those things. Y’know, jerseys and shit.
I really wear this ignorance on my sleeve with disdainful vigor. When someone says something about a sports team, my normal response is to misidentify the sport they are talking about, e.g.:
Sports Fan: The Broncos got destroyed last night.
Me: What is that, hockey?
…which is exactly the joke I made to Aneela’s friend, who, for the purposes of this article we shall call ‘Doe.’ I let her get a few seconds into tactfully correcting me before I told her it was a josh.
Yes, the experiences of childhood have caused me to look at sports with perplexed revulsion, like when you’re drawing something very long and gross out of the drain you can’t identify yet. Nonetheless, I got to enjoying the experience. Not necessarily the gameplay, but the experience – chatting, drinking crappy beers, cheering along with the fans.
I was situated to the left of Aneela and Doe when the guy at bat cracked one towards our side of the stadium.
At first, I thought the ball was going to drop below us, but it kept rising like a terrible monster out of the sea until I realized it was headed right towards me.
“GET IT!!” Someone shrieked to my left.
And so I went for it. Or at least it LOOKED like I did.
I kinda-jumped while spreading my hands upwards, but way too far apart to put them in danger of actually catching the ball. The ball slammed against something behind me and ricocheted.
It turned out the thing the ball had slammed against was Doe’s hand. She had apparently learned nothing from youth baseball, and was ACTUALLY trying to catch it. However, she didn’t get her fingers around it, and it was snatched up by some woman we were seated next to.
“THAT’S MY BALL!” Doe yawped, cradling her hand in pain.
Her hand wasn’t broken or anything, but it hurt and she was shaking, though I think the latter was mostly from adrenaline.
“I HAD IT!” She kept wailing, staring at the hand that let it get away. “ALL SHE DID WAS JUST PICK IT UP OFF THE GROUND!!”
The Red Socks won, in case anyone was wondering. I felt it was a victory for me, because I enjoyed the game, and was able to convince everyone (until now) that I was actually was going in for that catch.
It was a good thing I didn’t, though. I can’t afford to take another shot to the temple.