Monday, April 9, 2012
Creative Writing: To Be In Centerfield
Painting of Yankee Stadium by Thomas Kinkade
It's on days like this one, early in the Spring, when I get that feeling. The season has just begun but is far enough along for the sun to warm your face and sprout fledgling buds on the trees, promising the full bloom of summer. It especially happens when my heart is heavy, my mind racing, my soul troubled. It is on days like today that I wish I was a boy again and the only thing vexing me was whether I would start in Centerfield or not.
And, man, could I play Centerfield. I was built for it - like a greyhound; deep in the chest, thin in the extremities. And I could run like one, too! I used to like to play really shallow and dare hitters to drive one over my head - 'cause they couldn't! I was so fast that I felt like I could run down any ball that was even hit close to me. The only way a hitter was going to get one over my head was to smash the damned thing over the wall!! Tracking down fly balls became my mission, my passion. I was a splendid splinter - a blur of a boy with visions of Mickey Mantle and Joe Dimaggio dancing in my head. I dreamt that, someday, I would be like a bounty hunter, patrolling the vast space that was Centerfield in the old Yankee Stadium, tracking down long fly balls as if they were runaway fugitives with a huge bounty on their heads.
Man, I could run. I'm left handed and, so, had that extra step closer to first base when I was at the plate for an at-bat. I was so fast that if I slapped the ball to the shortstop's backhand, by the time he righted himself, turned, and fired to first, I was already passing the bag. "SAFE!", the umpire would yell, much to the chagrin of the shortstop who did everything he was supposed to do and still couldn't throw me out. I almost always hit in the lead-off spot so that I could get on base and wreak havoc with my speed on the base path. In so many stolen base attempts that I can't remember them all, I CAN only remember being thrown out twice - and that was in the same game.
It was all so simple. It was all so innocent. About the only thing we had to worry about was whether rain would cancel the game. I desperately miss that simple, single-mindedness of purpose; practice, play the games, win, or lose. Gray was not a color that entered our minds unless we were talking about the weather.
I'm not so fast anymore. I'm still thick in the chest and thin in the extremities, but maybe a little thicker in the middle, too. I consider myself to be in reasonable shape but a sprint down the first-base line would, I'm sure, cause irreparable damage to my hamstrings! No. Those days are gone forever, and, unfortunately, so is the innocence the came with them. Now it's back to mortgages, relationships, bills, work, ailments, and . . . Oh, to be in Centerfield and run, and run, and run.