Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Clear the Mechanism // The Foul Ball

It was a cloudless summer evening. We wore T-shirts comfortably and donned our baseball caps while we watched a minor league baseball game. Parents pointed out to their children the mischief of the mascots. Rounds of hot dogs lathered in ketchup and mustard and tortilla chips topped with nacho cheese were scavenged from the concession stand or purchased from the walking, shouting vendors. They mystified our children as they wandered through the seats. The sauces leaped from my kids’ tiny fingers to the front of their shirts as my wife and I scampered unsuccessfully for wipes and napkins. We soon gave up the battle and resigned ourselves to a future laundry load of stained clothing while cradling them on our laps. We treasured their giggling and answered their questions as the innings ticked on into the evening.

The setting sun glazed us in bronze. The sun began to dissolve into right field. The chalk lines were crisp down the line. The green grass was almost glow-in-the-dark in the odd, beautiful play of light at dusk. There was no sign of rain.

By the seventh inning my children grew tired. We soon gathered behind the home plate bleachers to wish Papa and Nana well before leaving. I became confused by a sudden rumble of thunder. It was out of place during this cloudless summer evening. The sky was so pristine it was sure to produce brilliant diamond starlight as soon as the sun retracted its final golden remnant. Thunder was the last thing I expected.

The mystery was soon solved as I saw a small white comet descending from the metal awning above the stands at home plate. The thunder was the sound of a foul baseball hitting the metal roof of the awning after ricocheting off the batter’s bat. It landed approximately 10 feet away from us. Kids chasing foul balls sprinted toward the comet as it rolled away from us. One triumphant youngster nabbed the foul ball and shouted “Yeah! I got it!”

We were promising Nana and Papa to do this again sometime soon when I heard the sound of an aluminum bat striking a baseball followed by a second round of thunder. I again looked to the sky, now somewhat concerned one of us was going to get concussed by a second foul ball as it descended from the metal roof. As I looked up I noticed the ball falling directly toward me. I raised my hands and watched the comet descend perfectly into the net of my fingers. I barely felt the impact as my brain puzzled to understand that I just caught a foul ball! Did I just catch a foul ball?

My daughter looked at me. Her eyes were big as baseball gloves! My wife, who partially ducked, turned around to see if anyone had been struck. She turned to find me grinning like a complete, fantastic idiot! With no less enthusiasm than the youngster who stood 10 feet away from me, I stared at the ball in my hand and stammered out “Yeah! I got it!” The youngster and I grinned the same grin. I handed the ball to m daughter who began to dance around with the ball held over her head. Nana asked, “Did you catch that?”

After the surprise wore off, we all began walking toward the parking lot. Our youngest drowsed to sleep on my wife’s shoulder. My oldest sat on my shoulders and carried the foul ball the whole walk to the car, exploring every detail of the ball in an attempt to unravel the mystery. As we exited the front gate to return home, she gave a look back at that diamond bathed in light as the drapes of night darkened around it.

Before our tires reached the highway, both our children were asleep. I glanced at my wife in the passenger seat. She smiled at me in the darkness as I took her hand. I was still grinning the grin which returns every time I think of that night.  

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