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MY TURN AT BAT
A Game of Catch
By Jody Williams
As usual, since I'm the coach, we're the first at the field. And, as always, we start by stretching for about five minutes. For me, in my second childhood, it's a matter of prudent necessity; for him, at twelve, it's a discipline benignly imposed that he performs willingly, almost unconsciously, maintaining an easy flow of chatter as he goes through the motions of getting ready to play, now swinging a pair of bats, one metal, one wood.
Next we move to a distance about fifty feet apart and begin throwing, my stiff lobs contrasting with his straight, hard throws that explode into my mitt. In the circumscribed high school world, I was once a decent pitcher and afterward a sore-armed member of the university's freshman squad before deciding to give up childish things to become a scholar, or something like that. So, I have in my life both outgrown the game and later reverted to its simple pleasures. Perhaps bodily decrepitude is wisdom, but I would rather steal second with a stand-up slide or whiff an opposing batter than reflect on things past or passing. To throw a baseball straight and true or to break off a curve, the circuitous deceiver that dives elusively from a hitter expecting a pitch down the middlethese artful pleasures are no less gratifying than those of delivering a crisp phrase or of turning an image to astonish an unwary reader. These days, it takes five minutes of loosening up to get any kind of velocity.
Pop . . . pop. . . . There's a rhythm now to our game, this continual exchange and challenge, a crescendo of effortless mastery.
I wonder how much longer I can do this. With each passing year, the initial tightness and consequent kinks will take more and more time to work out. I can see myself already, doddering and scuffling along the sidelines, shouting instructions with crackly voice to yet another group of twelve-year-olds.
Today it's perfect. I'm shamelessly proud of my son's ability, the ease with which he absorbs my hardest throws, then whips the return, letting go, holding nothing back, yet still with a motion effortless and graceful. A little smile with just a trace of smugness betrays the child's pride in being able to hold his own with Dad.
Pop . . . pop. . . . Perfect rhythm. Perfect harmony. We never miss. It's fun to be young.
JODY WILLIAMS is a baseball coach who also writes poetry and short stories in Austin, Texas. He holds an M.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught literature and composition to freshmen and sophomores. Despite his eligibility for AARP, he still pitches and plays third base in the local forty-and-over semipro league.
© 2003 Jody Williams
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