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 so long as you had decent coordination, a modicum of discipline, or an average throwing arm. Barring these, it was near impossible, unless of course your father was 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 macabre only because it is. The team motto was "We bury the competition", which isn't true, but really should be.
I lived in 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 lawn ornaments with gloves.
I wasn’t complaining. This was the perfect position for a kid playing baseball who also happens to be terrified by baseballs.
It was also incredibly boring, especially for a kid who had trouble focusing both figuratively and literally.
Whatever fuzzy action going on in front paled in comparison to that weirdo-looking cloud up in the sky, or that other game in the next field over, or the super cool bug who just moseyed on over to strike up an imaginary conversation.
I suspect kneelers were installed in our bleachers so spectators could barrage God with prayers whenever the rare left-handed hitter appeared, well aware their little freakshow in the outfield would be just as likely to be paying attention as spinning in a random circle or smacking at sprouted dandelions.
In fact, 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.
Three years into this farce, and desperate to get his son's head in the game, my father forsook his Catholic principles to either bribe or extort the head coach. This is the only logical explanation for why a head coach would abruptly move the league’s least competent player to shortstop, a position that requires doing, you know, baseball stuff.
Fourth grade was starting, apparently 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 catching a line drive with my face.
As my tiny body fell like a crumpled napkin, 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.
Looking back now at the cosmic ironic potential of an inattentive half-blind kid being killed by a pop fly while representing the town's funeral home, I am both grateful and surprised to have survived this field of nightmares.