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The Elusive Ball
By Alan S. Ambrisco


My problem with going to baseball games is probably typical for someone who doesn't much like baseball: I don't really follow the ball. I usually feel bad about this, like I'm missing the game, missing the story. But then I realize that the ball isn't the story; it's the narrator. Players in a game, let's call them characters, are called forth by the ball like an author brings into focus the man stealing oranges at the five-and-dime, the teenage girl behind the counter who sees this but doesn't care, or the poodle who, oblivious to all this, pees on the sidewalk outside. We watch baseball like we watch fiction, and our gaze is drawn toward actors who emerge—triumphant or defeated, sober or elated, confident or shaken—to hold our gaze for a while and then, with a slight flick of the wrist and a kick of the leg, fall once more into the background.

Baseball is not a metaphor for life; it's a metaphor for fiction, and maybe that's why readers, and not just players, should keep our eyes, not on the ball, but on what happens around the ball. After all, it's the characters we collect, on trading cards and stat sheets—and in memories. The game balls, those we place behind glass or stick on shelves. They draw us back to the story, but the story lives in the gestures, movements, and memories of those who, framed on a field of green, dance with a small white ball that sometimes bothers to look in their direction.



ALAN S. AMBRISCO was raised in western New York, but now lives in Akron, Ohio, where he’s an assistant professor of English at the University of Akron. He occasionally attends Eastern League games featuring the hometown Aeros.

© 2004 Alan S. Ambrisco


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