Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Elder’s baseball season ended last Saturday. As I’ve watched him the last several months, an almost grown man running down fly balls in the centerfield, I couldn’t help but remember the story I wrote thirteen years ago about a certain scrawny towheaded boy…

Last night, Elder played his first real ballgame — as long as we consider “real” a relative term. Some individuals might consider the affair just a rendezvous with other short people in different colored shirts. But for Elder and his adoring public, it was a baseball game.

Elder’s team, the Redbirds, were the visitors, which as we are all from the same town, merely means they batted first. Elder’s first swing connected solidly, sending the ball bouncing along the third base line. Unfortunately, it bounced to the outside before reaching third base — foul ball. As Elder said later, “I hit it, but it was a fail ball, so I couldn’t run.” So, Elder returned to the batter’s box, only to swing and miss on the next two pitches.

One more batter and the Redbirds reached the end of their roster. Younger, somehow aware that the dugout had been emptied, toddled into the little building, snatching helmets before returning to Mommy and Daddy. Somewhat frustrated, having already replaced Elder’s helmet several times, I tossed the helmet towards the others scattered in the dugout then dragged a struggling Younger back to the benches, where he decided he could fly from the third row. So, otherwise occupied, I missed a lot of the game.

However, I did look up once to see Elder, who was playing second, intent on pushing the runner from his base, his hands wrapped firmly around the kid’s tennis shoe as he tugged and pulled. Then, later, he had to leave the field for the call of nature.

At some point, towards the end, he wandered into centerfield to have a conversation with his cousin. When he heard us holler, he meandered towards his base, pausing every so often to spin in circles, both arms outstretched. However, when another runner made it to second base, he concentrated his efforts on the new kid, circling him several times then stopping in front of him to shove his face into the shadow of the kid’s cap.

When one of the coaches, who hovered just behind the shortstop for most of the game, caught Elder’s intimidation tactics, he started towards him. Noticing the man bearing down on him, Elder quickly placed the baserunner between him and the coach. The coach feinted and reached, Elder ducked and scrambled. Eventually, the batter hit the ball, redirecting both Elder and the Coach’s attention.

His next game is Thursday at 7:30. We have discussed the intimidation tactics, the sojourning to the outfield, the three-sixties, and the dodging the coach. I expect a perfectly well behaved child on second base Thursday night.

I have no idea where they’ll play Elder.

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