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 could possibly be strolling by a taking part in area, a tennis court docket, even a neighbor’s yard, and balls of all kinds would inevitably search me out.
This uncommon Legislation of Attraction began the summer season after I was 11 years outdated and performed proper area within the Swansea Little League. (Or was it left area? I can by no means get it straight. You recognize, that spot past first base?) I by no means wished to be on a baseball crew. In reality, I loathed the very thought. But it surely was my dad and mom’ approach of making an attempt 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 appeared 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 doable indicators of preteen and teenage drug dependancy. Considered one of them was spending extreme time alone, particularly in a bed room behind closed doorways. Due to squalls of tension that had been storming by my physique, I had typically locked myself in my room alone.
“Have you ever taken any medication?”
“No, after all 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 the event you haven’t taken medication, you possibly can’t be a drug addict,” she mentioned, her index fingers banging collectively like two Twix Bars. “It goes collectively.”
“However I’m nervous I’ll turn into 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 typically I really 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 snort after I tossed the ball. (“You throw like a lady, Leite.”) Or after I was up at bat. (“My grandmother might swing higher than that, Leite!”) And particularly after 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 pace 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 area, with the child who performed that place backing up, up, up and catching it, however not earlier than a number of gamers made their approach across the bases. Generally, with my glove as much as my mouth, I’d even sing softly to myself—largely Tony Orlando and Daybreak or the Osmonds.
I don’t understand how I bought 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 recreation, I’d beg cash from my dad and mom, who went to each single recreation and, bless them, avoided wincing whereas I performed. I’d replenish on Swedish Fish, sweet necklaces, crimson shoestring licorice, Candy Tarts, and bubble gum. I’d unwrap every little thing, 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 really having fun with a veritable panoply of childhood delights.
Towards the top of the season, I used to be in my ordinary 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 approach. Proper area?! The batter was a right-hander. No right-hander had ever popped one into proper area. I panicked.
“Catch it, Dave!” everybody was screaming. “Catch it.” My dad and mom 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 ft from me. Laughter broke out all over the place.
“Throw it! Throw it!” I picked up the ball and, adrenaline pumping, lobbed it so arduous 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 crew 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 do not know how lengthy I stood there, however I don’t keep in mind doing something till a pop fly got here my approach. Catching this would possibly in some way 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 making an attempt 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 crew jumped and hugged one another.
I by no means performed Little League once more. But it surely was then that balls started dropping out of the heavens at my ft. In highschool, I’d purposely stroll, with my head down, out of my solution to keep away from the taking part in fields, but there I’d stand, observing a baseball, soccer, soccer ball, or tennis ball between my ft, 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 appearance 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 fake to not discover that it was there.
These days after I inform this story, associates generally 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 associates, 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 area, smile, and stroll on.
Then I depend to at least one, two, three and, certain sufficient, “Asswipe!” or some comparable insult is volleyed at me. And I snort. Initially printed August 28, 2015.
© 2023 David Leite. Picture © 2015 David Leite. All rights reserved. All supplies used with permission.