It’s opening day and everybody is in first place. I throw the ball up in the air, swing and a miss. I’m still the greatest ballplayer ever.
Yes, once again, baseball season has begun.
After the National Anthem and the ceremonial first pitch, the umpire calls out the iconic words of my life, “play ball.” In a flash, I’m a kid again, the smell of leather and grass, choking up to lay one down or going for the fences. From frozen ropes, to the double play pivot, to the 12-to-six curve to hitting the cutoff; I had all the tools.
Out to the field, a cool breeze in the air, I throw the ball up, swing and a miss. I’m still the greatest ever.
We used to collect cards to trade, to flip, to scale, to stick in our bicycle spokes. We hardly even chewed the gum. I had Mantles and Mays and Marvelous Marvs, but not because they were worth money, but because you just had to have them, need’m, got’m.
I once traded a Mantle, which would later be worth thousands, for a Pumpsie Green, because I had doubles.
Recently I was sick and found myself in bed at nine in the morning. Leave it to Beaver was on TV and I was reminded of missing school, when my mother would bring me tea and toast, take my temperature and fluff my pillows. It was kind of nice in the winter, but the rest of the year, not so much, as I heard the kids in the neighborhood chanting their no-batter chatter. They all wanted me on their team and somehow I wasn’t so sick anymore.
So I picked the ball up again and threw it high in the air. I swung the bat like I was ripping the skin off the ball, but I whiffed by a mile, still the greatest baseball player ever.