I’ve an issue with balls. I can’t catch them, I can’t maintain on to them, and I actually can’t throw them. However apparently, balls don’t have an issue with me. They appear drawn to me. I might be strolling by a taking part in discipline, a tennis courtroom, even a neighbor’s yard, and balls of all types would inevitably search me out.
This uncommon Regulation of Attraction began the summer season once I was 11 years outdated and performed proper discipline within the Swansea Little League. (Or was it left discipline? I can by no means get it straight. You realize, that spot past first base?) I by no means wished to be on a baseball workforce. The truth is, I loathed the very thought. Nevertheless it was my mother and father’ means of attempting to assimilate me with different boys and get me out of the home.
Not lengthy earlier than, I had walked as much as my father whereas he was studying the newspaper on a Sunday afternoon and mentioned, “Daddy, I feel I’m a drug addict.”
He slowly lowered his paper and his La-Z-Boy. He seemed over my head to my mom. Then he checked out me. “Why do you say that, son?” He was mild, a hand on my arm.
I defined that we had been given a handout in class that listed the attainable indicators of preteen and teenage drug habit. One in all them was spending extreme time alone, particularly in a bed room behind closed doorways. Due to squalls of tension that had been storming via my physique, I had usually locked myself in my room alone.
“Have you ever taken any medication?”
“No, in fact not,” I replied, a bit offended. What a ridiculous query.
“Son,” my mom mentioned, “you don’t have anything to fret about then.”
“Banana, in case you haven’t taken medication, you may’t be a drug addict,” she mentioned, her index fingers banging collectively like two Twix Bars. “It goes collectively.”
“However I’m apprehensive I’ll grow to be a drug addict as a result of I spend a lot time alone.” Their seeing my utter lack of comprehension about how the world labored and being starkly reminded of simply how usually I truly was holed up in my room is how I ended up in Little League.
Practices had been depressing for me. My teammates would roll their eyes and snicker once I tossed the ball. (“You throw like a lady, Leite.”) Or once I was up at bat. (“My grandmother might swing higher than that, Leite!”) And particularly once I was catching and missed a pop fly. (“Hey, Magoo, you want glasses?”) As a result of no boy was ever turned away from Little League again then, Mr. Hibert, our coach, minimized the harm I might do by putting me behind first base, the place no batter ever hit a ball.
We had been in final place a lot of the season. To deal with the boredom I felt on the market, I’d maintain my glove up and chew on the leather-based cords that stitched it collectively. I’d gnaw away as I watched grounders velocity towards shortstop solely to be scooped up and pegged at first base. “Out!” the umpire would shout. Or whereas I noticed pop flies arc like fireworks over middle discipline, with the child who performed that place backing up, up, up and catching it, however not earlier than a number of gamers made their means across the bases. Typically, with my glove as much as my mouth, I’d even sing softly to myself—principally Tony Orlando and Daybreak or the Osmonds.
I don’t know the way I acquired the thought of consuming within the outfield, however as soon as I did, the video games virtually turned a spectator sport for me. There was a concession stand behind the bleachers, and earlier than a sport, I’d beg cash from my mother and father, who went to each single sport and, bless them, avoided wincing whereas I performed. I’d top off on Swedish Fish, sweet necklaces, crimson shoestring licorice, Candy Tarts, and bubble gum. I’d unwrap all the things, toss the wrappers, and stuff the sweet right into a small brown paper bag. I’d match the bag into the criminal of my glove, and whereas it appeared to everybody that I used to be bored and chewing my glove, I used to be truly having fun with a veritable panoply of childhood delights.
Towards the top of the season, I used to be in my regular place within the outfield, my glove overflowing with my candy stash. I used to be counting down the video games till this torture was over and I might toss out my glove for good. After which it occurred. A crack of the bat that despatched the ball arcing my means. Proper discipline?! The batter was a right-hander. No right-hander had ever popped one into proper discipline. I panicked.
“Catch it, Dave!” everybody was screaming. “Catch it.” My mother and father stood up, my mom clutching my father’s arm. I made my determination. I raised my glove excessive above my head and cupped the again of it with my left hand, like Mr. Hibert had taught me. The sweet rained down on me, and I turned my face away and missed the ball, which landed about three toes from me. Laughter broke out all over the place.
“Throw it! Throw it!” I picked up the ball and, adrenaline pumping, lobbed it so laborious and excessive it missed the primary baseman and hit the bottom close to the catcher. He beaned it to second base, however it was too late. The batter had made it to 3rd base. I used to be humiliated. Sitting on the bench, I ignored the taunts of the boys on the opposite workforce and the chilly shoulder from my teammates.
Throughout one of many final video games that season, I used to be holding down the outfield and praying for rain when a lightening strike of the bat despatched the ball careening proper into the balls of our pitcher, Kevin Kraska. He crumpled. Everybody crowded the mound like ants feasting on picnic droppings. I used to be the one one who stayed within the outfield. Mr. Hibert and, I feel, Mr. Kraska helped Kevin again to the bench.
Mr. Hibert motioned the primary basemen over to the mound. “You pitch.”
“Who’s gonna play first base?” the child mentioned.
“It doesn’t make a distinction now, let’s simply combine it up,” he mentioned, his arm twirling above his head. “Outfield in, infield out.” He pointed at me: “Leite, first base.” I stuffed the sweet in my pockets and trotted over.
I don’t know how lengthy I stood there, however I don’t keep in mind doing something till a pop fly got here my means. Catching this may someway erase the rancid humiliation of my earlier failures. I put up my hand, all eyes on me. After which I calmly lowered my glove. It was as if time slowed to molasses. The ball plopped down subsequent to me, and I watched as a number of boys dove alongside me attempting to seize it. Mr. Hibert was nonplussed. The ball relayed from boy to boy to boy, however it by no means outran the batter as he rounded the bases and slid into dwelling. The opposing workforce jumped and hugged one another.
I by no means performed Little League once more. Nevertheless it was then that balls started dropping out of the heavens at my toes. In highschool, I’d purposely stroll, with my head down, out of my method to keep away from the taking part in fields, but there I’d stand, watching a baseball, soccer, soccer ball, or tennis ball between my toes, somebody yelling at me to throw it again. And I’d have a call to make: Do I throw it to them and threat as soon as once more the sexist chant, “You throw like a lady!” or do I merely stroll on?
In my twenties, it grew simpler to disregard gamers’ shouts, particularly with the arrival of the Walkman. I might declare to not hear something however the soulful lyrics of Anita Baker or Chet Baker—after which, being so moved by the music, I’d step proper over the ball and faux to not discover that it was there.
These days once I inform this story, mates typically ask me to show it. So I stroll them to the Nice Garden in Central Park, the place groups are all the time taking part in.
“Watch,” I say. We’ll begin alongside the perimeter of the grass and, inevitably, a ball will roll proper throughout my path. I look to my mates, who shake their heads, dumbstruck. “I instructed you,” I say.
“Throw it over the fence, will ya?” “Are you able to toss that?” “Dude, move it over,” come the pleas. I simply look over on the discipline, smile, and stroll on.
Then I rely to 1, two, three and, certain sufficient, “Asswipe!” or some related insult is volleyed at me. And I snicker. Initially printed August 28, 2015.
© 2023 David Leite. Picture © 2015 David Leite. All rights reserved. All supplies used with permission.