Batting Practice

from The Gift is to the Giver (Keppie Usage, 2022), by Mark Gozonsky

I took pride in never asking the manager last season why I wasn’t playing.  He had either adapted a curmudgeonly persona or was in fact a curmudgeon.  Either way, he wasn’t going to tell me he was saving me for the right situation.  There was no right situation.  I’m 60.   My knees hurt.  I didn’t want to quit, but benchwarming gave me time to think and finally come to realize that the affirmation I seek from baseball is not so much about playing a full nine-inning game as it is about as tossing a ball up and hitting it.  Also, it doesn’t have to be a ball.  It can be a fallen orange.

      That’s actually better.  When you barrel up on a fallen orange, the air smells citrus-y.  And you don’t have to hasten global warming by driving out 20 miles to the ball field on a Sunday morning.  I can stand in my backyard and swat balls and oranges out of sight.  This is what I love, when the batted object soars over the lemon tree, through the sycamore leaves, over the red-flowered Tecoma vines, never to be seen again. 

      It reminds me of summer vacation last summer, at a campsite just outside of Boulder, Colorado.  There I played Wiffle ball against a six-year-old who jumped out to a quick lead on pure scrappiness, which I admired.  I came storming back on a pair of towering home runs way up into the tall, tall pines.  It’s true — the ball carries further at altitude.  Taking that scrappy six-year-old kid majestically deep, fairy-tale deep — that is the hardest I have laughed during all of COVID.  If that kid ever grows up and somehow reads this – I wasn’t laughing at you, kid.  I was laughing from pleasure in being alive.  And besides, don’t forget — in the end, you won.  

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