A FIELD OF NIGHTMARES
I don't remember who decided to enroll a hyperactive eight-year-old with undiagnosed ADHD and uncorrected nearsightedness for little league tryouts, but it probably felt like a really, really good idea at the time.
Despite such limitations, making a team was actually quite easy for any child with decent coordination, a modicum of discipline, or an average throwing arm. Lacking all that, it was basically impossible, unless you had a father willing to take on assistant coaching duties to wheedle his scrawny seed onto a roster pity spot.
Dad and I joined that spring.
The team's sponsor was West, Parrish & Pedigo, our town's funeral home. Naturally, this meant our jerseys and hats were the color of ash, which sounds really weird, but only because it is. The team's motto was "We bury the competition", which isn't true, but should be.
My home was right field, which sounds just like left field until you discover that every right-handed player hits the ball into left field and every left-handed player plays some other sport. Until about the age of twelve, when players start controlling their swings, right fielders are basically gloved lawn ornaments.
Not that I was complaining. This was the perfect position for a kid playing baseball who is also terrified by baseballs.
It also happened to be incredibly boring, especially for a kid who had trouble focusing in more ways than one.
Whatever fuzzy action going on in front paled in comparison to that other game going on over there, or that weirdo-looking cloud up in the sky, or the super cool bug who just moseyed on over to have a conversation.
I suspect kneelers were installed in our bleachers so that spectators could send a deluge of prayers God's way whenever the rare left-handed hitter appeared, knowing their team's weird little freakshow would be just as likely to be paying attention as spinning in a random circle or whacking dandelions with his glove.
It also explains why the only home movie of my little league days is audibly littered with my exasperated father shouting "JOE! PAY ATTENTION!" in fifteen second intervals like a parrot with turrets. He deeply regrets this now, but in full earnestness, all that yelling was likely the only thing that stood between me and multiple skull fractures.
Anyway, three years into this farce, and desperate to get his son's head in the game, my father forsook his Catholic principles and either bribed or extorted the head coach. I don't know which, but this is the only explanation that makes sense for why a coach might suddenly move his (and likely the league's) least competent player to shortstop, a position that actually requires doing baseball stuff.
Fourth grade was starting, which apparently was everyone's cue to double in size without informing me. I lasted a few innings in this land of giants before finally getting my head in the game by getting beaned in the face.
As my tiny body laid like a crumpled napkin in the infield, every WP&P fan knew this head trauma had just created both a literal and figurative opening. And yet thankfully, mercifully, each and every one restrained their applause to sound more conciliatory than celebratory as I left a field of nightmares.
Looking back now, given the cosmic ironic potential of an inattentive half-blind kid being killed by a pop fly on behalf of the town's funeral home, I am both grateful and surprised to have survived this brief stint in baseball.