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.