Volume 15, Issue 6: Pictura
If he takes it to the outside, I'm on a knee with a backhand. Twist to throw to second. If down the line, I'm on my belly. I couldn't reach it. Closer to the bag. Now, if it's down the line, I'm on my belly. Up to my knees and throw to second. Do not throw to first. Get the runner at two. Do not let that guy advance. I will not let him advance. If it's dead off the bat, charge.
No waiting on a slow roll. Sidearm against my momentum back to second. If it's dribbling down the line, I'm in trouble. Next batter, and this guy will not reach third. He will not touch my bag again unless I've touched him first.
Outfield. One dead. Cut three. Holding my finger up. Talking to center and left. First base is talking to center and right. One dead. Cut three. One dead. Cut three. Hum now. Heat him up. Loosen up. Feet spreading, fist in the glove and both hands waiting. Ball's pitched. Watch his feet, close to short, swinging. Check swing. Ball one. Stand up. Loosen my neck. Head
to shoulder, head to shoulder. Stamping my spikes back to my spot. Outfield. One dead. Cut three.
His name is Jamie. I know this because I listen. I do not know her name. He calls her `Babe.' I'm still listening to see what anyone else calls her. Who knows what she's doing with this guy. Jamie's had three at bats. First one parked deep in center. I would have disliked him just as much if he'd struck out, but it would have been more enjoyable. She'd jumped up and down in
the bleachers behind the dugout clapping and squealing. Jamie had jogged his way around the bags, bringing his boy band hair with him. "See you `round little man," he'd said. And winked.
Jamie is a personal affront to baseball. But then he's a personal affront to hair, women, and life in general. I don't blame Babe for being with him. Maybe their first date was scheduled for after the game. She could be doing a favor for a friend against her better judgment. That would hardly account for the home run squealing. I find it more comfortable to believe that
her father has just died in a tragic accident and that she, while vulnerable, happened upon Jamie in some deceptive context that kindled friendship. Squealing or no squealing, the friendship of this girl is all that I will admit Jamie. Affection, slight crush, puppy love. These could not be the case. Friendship can overlook frosted tips for a time. But I think too highly of this girl
to believe her so easily deceived into actually liking him.
Jamie is not fast, though everyone seems to think so. He just runs hard. Puffing. He is taller than I am. His pants are tight enough to show the outfielders the straps of his jock. I find his face puffy.
My first at bat brought me up next to Jamie. The pitcher jammed me. I arrived at first with ringing hands on a short stop error. Jamie stood there with his big glove and fat butt waiting for me to return from the enormous distance my speed had taken me across the bag. He just grinned at me at first. Then he spoke.
"Not bad little man. New record for you I think. Just about as far as I've ever seen you hit." Then he accidentally spat a sun flower seed on my shoulder and scooted in close to me. He stood as straight as he could and looked down at me from the steepest angle he could create.
"Insecure for a tall guy," I said and bent over at the waist. My hands were on my knees. I wasn't going to play his height comparison game. Left foot against the bag, I started watching pitch circle the mound. Something wet landed on the back of my neck as I began to take my lead. I'd missed my signs from the three bag.
It was a long at bat, and Jamie was the kind of guy who took every opportunity to suddenly slap his fist into his glove and hit me on the butt with it in his dramatic interpretation of what it would be like if I were picked off.
I finally got the hand sliding on the hip after the nose indicator. Took my lead, got a jump and was off to the races. The double play ball got there first. Directly to the short stop in stride. He kicked the bag and hurdled my slide to add unnecessary drama to his throw to Jamie.
Outfield. One dead. Cut three. I will get to a short foul in the air. Better. I will pull a liner out of the dirt. Jamie can't have brakes on thighs that size and I'll gun to first behind him. I will have lost my hat. I'll hop up, retrieve my cap and jog nonchalantly through team congratulations into the next inning, which will involve a large hit. Not much time, pitcher's got the sign.
Bent knees, glove down. Inside. Pulled it. Slow foul down the line. No need to move. Two steps and I dive. On my belly over the bag. But the ball's in my glove. People are laughing. Just practice. If I can cover two feet outside the bag, then I can cover anything. I'm sure my elbow will scab. Didn't quite land right. She isn't laughing. She's not looking at Jamie. She's watching me
toss the ball to the pitch and resume my place. Adjust my hat brim. Up and down. The front's sweat-sogged. Short leftfield bloop and I will run it down. Basket catch and roll. Come up throwing to second. Jamie wouldn't tag. He'd be wandering back to first. He'd run on that bloop sure that I couldn't reel it in. I hope he tags. Challenge this arm. I roll my shoulder. It's loose
and ready for leftfield grass. Jamie's leading. No need to worry there. Let him lead. Let him run. The old ump could pick him off. Pitch steps off. Looks him back.
Jamie's second at bat had brought a burner to shallow short. Too hot to handle. I'd backed up the bobble and still got him at first, throwing harder than I remember. Babe had looked disappointed in me. Had removed the nail chewed fingers from her mouth and yelled unheeded encouragement to the oaf stepping back into the dugout. I pitied her. Poor deceived girl. I was
here for her. Placed at third base to somehow find a way to open her eyes to the true nature of all that was Jamie.
His third at bat he led off the order. And was beaned. Beautifully. In the shoulder. It sounded like a slapped fish. A man would have simply slid his bat through the dirt and jogged to the bag like any other walk. Jamie simply stood. Waited for the on deck batter to take his bat. Sent Babe a grimace, and walked a slow ninety feet to first rolling his shoulder all the way. A
fly out gave us one dead.
Pitcher's in the stretch. Shakes his head. I can't see the signs. Probably fastball. Outside. He won't pull. Don't crowd the line. Pull off. Watch his feet. Batter wants leftfield. Won't get it on outside heat. Might get around to my side of short. Hot one on the ground and I'll drop, field it with glove on my left thigh and stand, like a pro, relaxed in my arm strength. No need
to hurry, even a double play. So relaxed Babe will think I might roll it to second. Then the arm. The gun. The glove smack and play turned to first. Second base will be shaking the smart out of his hand on the way to the dugout. Even weight. Pitch is coming. Hands loose. Knees bent. Fastball splits the middle and he's around on it. Huge hit down my line. I stand and watch.
Might be foul. Definitely parked. Jamie jogs around second and passes me toward third. Watching as I watch. Outside the pole. Foul ball. Jamie hops on my bag and turns to jog his way back to first. I'm in the baseline. Not going to look at him. I turn. Look down at my spikes. Pull at my hat bill. Time it. Look up to pace to my spot. And crack. Jamie's left elbow in my face. I
wanted to get bumped. Shoulder to shoulder. Or shoulder to chest. Not elbow to face. I'm reeling. Jamie jogs on. "Sorry, little man." he says over his shoulder. "Didn't see your face down there." My eyes are watering, so I can't see Babe. Did I just reveal Jamie? Is his soul now bare before her? I do not want a bloody nose. There is nothing heroic about a bloody nose. And yet, I rub
my face on my shoulder sleeve, and there is blood. I check things with my hand and am relieved. Swollen and bleeding lip. Much more gratifying. I do not wipe it again. Let it get all filthy and black with infield dirt. My eyes are clear and I look to the bleachers. I am picture perfect. One leg straight, one slightly bent. My front is dirt from my foul ball dive. My left arm is bent
up, tucking my glove to my shoulder. My right hand is down, flexing and unflexing. My lip is bleeding. She is not looking. She is looking at Jamie and laughing. He is making a face and rubbing his bruised shoulder blade. He has just called her Alice.
Beauty is strange. It may have a lovely light brown or blond haircut at chin length, framing a face of crackling life, eyes full of laughter, a wonderful taste in sweaters, etc. and still be unable to recognize an appropriate mate. Such is woman. A man can have the obvious ethical credibility of a strange sausage of indefinite age and look to an otherwise reasonable woman as if
he might have a soul. Remember that. Not the woman's fault. Don't blame Alice. Weakness of her species. Simply needs me to classify every male for her.
Pitch is ahead in the count. Throw some junk. Make him chase it. Smack my glove. Loosen my hand. Weight to my left. Back to the right. I'm swaying while I place my feet. Play's got to happen some time. Slider. Outside. Bat's out. Bad swing, but he's got it. Got it hot. To the middle. Legs go left. Straight down and off the pitcher's foot, kicked back toward third, but
I'm going the other way. Skid. Not a dive. A flop. Instinct overules my need to throw to two, and I go one from my knees. It's in the dirt squirts past first base. Jamie's rounding second. First's got it. Ball's hot and high. I'm in the baseline. Left spike out. Stretch up and it's in my glove. Jamie's hand is into my spike. His face is sliding behind. I swing down. Hard. Teeth
grinding. The glove wrapped ball meets his face. I hear a crack. My spike stops his slide. He doesn't even reach the bag. I think there's blood.
The ambulance took him away. Broken nose. Concussion. Stitches in his hand. I stood beside it acting apologetic while they loaded him. Apologetic to Alice. Not Jamie. Her eyes were much better up close.
"You're not sorry," she said. "He needed it. But you shouldn't have spiked him."
And that, Richard, is how I met your mother.