Sunday, October 22, 2006

Knowledge Problem

One of the most memorable nights of my sports life was this past week. Championship game for the city baseball league, 14-15 year olds. My younger son's team is down one run, bottom of the seventh (last) inning.

First guy up gets walked, bad pick-off throw sends him to third. Next guy gets walked.

My son Brian comes to bat. Takes a strike, fouls off a low pitch, probably out of the strike zone. Pitcher throws next pitch just off the outside corner. Brian takes it, ump calls it a ball (could have gone either way). Pitcher starts yapping, jumping up and down.

Next pitch is grooved, belt high down the middle. Brian hits a fly ball.

Now, atmospherics: I am so nervous I am hiding behind some bushes just outside the fence in center field. The night has gotten cold, and there is a thick mist rising in the outfield. Two feet thick, ghostly, roiled by passage outfielders. I see the ball go up, and think, "Oh, thank goodness, Brian did his job." Because in that situation, down one, no outs, man on third, you just have to hit a fly ball, or else a grounder to the right side of the infield. You MUST do this, as any ballplayer older than 8 knows. You fail, there is one out, still down one, and you may lose. Double play or a strikeout gets them out of it.

So, I'm watching to make sure the runner is tagging up at third. The coaches and fans are doing this, too. That runner is important.

The center fielder takes a step back, then another, to be in position to make the throw after he catches it.

Now, here's the cool thing: as soon as Brian hit it, he KNEW he had crushed it, and that it would in fact carry well over the center fielder's head. There was at least a full second when he was the ONLY ONE, out of more than 100 people present, who knew this.

The 2nd to realize it was the center fielder. He took another step back, then turned, then ran, then ran really hard, and then dove toward the fence. The ball still fell more than six feet out of his grasp.

I was the third person to know the ball would fall, because of my secluded position, about 15 feet from where the ball fell.

Fourth person to know was our third base coach, who was watching to tell the runner when to leave the base after tagging up, to run home. He starts jumping and shrieking, waving not just that runner on third, but the runner on FIRST to score.

Ball game over, we win the championship.

At McDonalds, afterward, my very interesting son focuses on the surreality of being the only one to know. "It was like it was totally silent, and all the world was in that little ball, getting higher and smaller. I knew it would carry, but no one else knew yet. It was like time stopped. I felt sorry for the center fielder. There was no way he could catch it, but he didn't know that yet."

The sort of thing you dream will happen someday, when the nurse tells you, "It's a boy!" Not just the game, but the conversation afterward. Pure bliss.


Unknownprofessor said...

And even better, it's down in print for your son to read and cherish.


Anonymous said...

That's what I'm looking forward to more than anything about having a son - talking baseball. It would be good to spend the rest of my life having those conversations with my friends, and people who just happen to be watching the same game, I can't wait to be able to do that with my kids. What a wonderful feeling.

JorgXMcKie said...

I'm very proud of my daughter. Very. But I was coaching a team of 11-13 year olds in the tournament and my son was on the team. He was a good and a decent ballplayer, but I rode him hard to avoid charges of favortism.

There's much more to the story, but we had finished at the bottom of our league and were actually playing for third place in a 12-team league tournament. The coach of the other team was one of "those" -- loud, abrasive, would cheat if he could, etc, etc and deadset on winning at all costs plus, of course, being a very sore loser and a bad winner.

We went into the third extra inning all tied, bottom of the inning, no one on and two out, when my son hit the *only* home run of his organized baseball career. The grin on his face was worth everything.

(Plus, irritating the hell out of the opposing coach wasn't too bad either.)

ardyanovich said...

I sure would hate to be the center fielder's dad.