There is something exquisite about a baseball game played at dusk under the lights- those ethereal moments right before the mosquitoes come out.
Baseball season is in full swing here in our world, and my son Caleb is most in his element when he is holding his black leather glove and his grass-stained ball. He is the smallest but most enthusiastic kid on his team, raising the roof every time he makes a play or gets on base or runs home.
He is on the yellow team- the coaches still pitch and everyone plays the field, regardless of how many kids show up to play. That means, at any given game, there are between 7 and 9 kids in the outfield, and when a ball is hit, they swarm like bees and inevitably crash into one another, and it all looks like a parody of the sport.
Of course it isn’t. It is serious business. These boys (and girl) are just on the cusp of becoming competent baseball players: when a player actually catches the ball, he acquires a look of astonishment and becomes immediately paralyzed from the face down. The crowd screams adulations while the coaches yell at him to throw the ball to third. He eventually comes back to life and throws the ball to second or first or anywhere but third, but it doesn’t matter.
It’s delightful entertainment.
Caleb hits every time and always slides into the bases. Always. Even when the ball is still being chased in far left field. Then he raises the roof while jumping up and down and hooting- the epitome of joyfulness. He waves his hat - his yellow hat that was lost in our backyard for two games but was found covered in leaves and mud by the sandbox.
Caleb played first base for a while today. He stood there, shouting to his teammates while scratching himself, and I thought- this is baseball. The great American sport. My son is itching himself in front of everyone. I hope the camera’s not on him. There are no cameras here. He is seven. I hope he doesn’t have jock itch. I think those pants don’t fit him right- they ride up in the crotch. Why in God’s green earth would they give them white pants to wear? I should put Scotch Guard on them before we go out. Does he have to go to the bathroom? Caleb STOP DOING THAT! (My mind tends to wander.)
He runs back to the dugout, passing me as he goes, pausing for a brief chat. Covered in dirt from head to toe, he finishes my soda and winks at me as he walks away. I grin at his childish gait, his head swaying left to right as he throws his glove down and picks up his bat, and am profoundly aware that I am looking at my own beating heart.
I didn’t know my heart loved baseball so much.