One of my Little League career’s many lowlights was the day a searing liner was hit out to me amid the clover that covered right field — a place generally unexplored by balls and so not coincidentally where I and millions of other kids not destined for greatness have played. After some combination of misjudging the ball, chasing it and fumbling to pick it up, I got it in my grip and heaved it with all my might, nearly skulling the understandably startled center fielder.
I wasn’t completely useless, though. I had two talents which my coach learned to exploit, and that in hindsight seem like early signs pointing to a future as a blogger:
1. Though I had none of the physical skills required to play catcher, I knew quite a bit about the position from having my nose buried in baseball books all the time. So I was possibly the youngest catcher able to frame pitches and/or bring them back into the strike zone, at least to the satisfaction of the high-school umpires of late-1970s Long Island.
2. I could keep score, which freed up Coach to attend to such essential duties as breaking up rock fights and stopping half the team from making a beeline to the ice-cream truck mid-inning for Fun Dip and Pop Rocks.
So far Joshua hasn’t had any on-the-field misadventures as cringeworthy as my 9-8 non-putout, thank goodness, and he can actually throw. But that aside, his Little League career is not all that different than mine. But now there’s a positive in that: Today he kept score avidly, save for the time needed to devour a Carvel cup of vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, recording every play from Jamey Carroll’s single to David Wright waving at strike three.
He got the numerical equivalent of the positions at once, even shortstop, and was barely thrown by anything — the only play that caused him to furrow a brow was Matt Kemp’s fifth-inning GIDP, which was pretty challenging to account for up and down the scorecard. He even added editorial comments — Jason Bay’s first-inning strikeout includes a scrawled “come on,” Wright’s third-inning K is accompanied by “pull it together,” and Andre Ethier’s fatal home run is noted with “oh man.” Pretty much what I was thinking at the same time in each instance, minus the profanity and sputtered beer.
The Mets lost today. But all in all, that was a bump in the road:
1. It was my 42nd birthday, or my Jackie Robinson birthday as we decided to call it. I hope my Turk Wendell birthday sees a lot more pennants on the wall of World Bank Economic Liberalization Program Stadium, and doesn’t involve crabbing about the lack of a no-hitter.
2. My lovely wife graciously agreed to share Mother’s Day with me, and to mark it with seats for all three of us in the Pepsi Porch.
3. It was my first 2011 visit to Citi Field, the lack an issue of April deadlines and one brush with bad weather. We got a stupefyingly gorgeous day — hot in the sun, yes, but around the fourth inning the clouds came in and left everything pleasantly warm without the added touch of deep-frying.
4. Joshua proved impressively leather-lunged, bellowing at players and the Mets in general. Emily and I eventually tired of this, perhaps because we were hemorrhaging from the ear canals, but our Pepsi Porch neighbors were amused. Or at least tolerant.
5. Excused myself in the mid innings for a visit to the Promenade behind home plate with Mr. Prince. We drank foreign beers and discussed an upcoming project we’re excited about and hope you will be too.
6. Jose Reyes tripled. It was pretty great.
Not bad for a season debut. On the way out, with Joshua still a bit mopey about the loss, I tried to cheer him up by noting that “the second-best thing you can do with an afternoon is watch your baseball team lose a game.” He cocked his head a bit, curious, and I asked him what he thought the best thing would be.
He got that too. Time to teach him to frame pitches.