Not far from where I live there’s a huge field of eight baseball diamonds. One night, I went to the field and watched a 12-inch softball game already in progress. As I had observed before, I noticed that the shortest players of a given team are the most vociferous in their enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s one way to make up for what they perceive as lost height. The blue team was at bat and the inning’s lead-off batter hit a blooper to left field that barely made it past the outstretched arms of the third baseman. One short blue player on the bench began an epic tantrum of joy: “Yeah! Whoa! Good, Mike. Good. Whoa!” This went on for a while. It was loud, and I think even his teammates were embarrassed for him.
The second batter poised himself to swing. It seemed that he had a reputation for being a man of unique acumen. He swung the bat and the ball landed about 20 feet in foul territory, a lazy pop up that would have been caught by the first baseman had he not carried Australia around his waist. After the batter made his clever attempt at an opposite field hit, all you can hear from the bench was, “Yeah! Good thought, man! Way to think!” The batter turned his head toward the bench with pursed lips, as if to say, “Thanks for appreciating my beautiful mind.” Back into the batter’s box, Plato tried again, but popped out to the second baseman. The runner at first had broken for second and was too slow in getting back to first. Double play. Two outs. The batter threw his lumber down in a fit of anger, tormented by his intellect.
Next was a guy named “Moe.” This is what his teammates called him. Moe was well built, of medium height, and had dark hair. Wasting no time, he drove the first pitch down the left field line. It was a nice hard low hit. He had a smooth swing that reminded me of Billy Williams who played for the Cubs in the 60’s and 70’s, though “sweet-swinging Billy” batted from the left side. Moe stood on second base with a double. The bench cheerleaders erupted with “Good going, Moe!” on and on and on. I thought the umpire was going to ask them to shut up. One of his teammates, however, gave away the etymology and said, “Good job, Muhammad!”
The next batter, shaped like tarzan, with a marine haircut and an eagle tattoo, was as stoned face as granite. He stood in an exaggerated batting stance as if the cameras of the world were on him. His legs were fully outstretched and slightly bent at the knees. The Rock let the first pitch go by him, not flinching or showing any thought at swinging at the offering. Between pitches, he didn’t move or adjust his bearing, which goes against the game’s expectations. You’re supposed to relax from the batting posture and maybe say something to the catcher or the umpire or to someone on the bench or read the label on the bat or spit or scratch. The next pitch came and the Rock lined a hard single to short center that sent Moe rounding third base heading toward home. A surprisingly good throw came in from the lanky centerfielder who tumbled after his release. Moe saw the throw coming. He sped up. He slid. And through the dust all you heard was, “Safe!”
Moe got up and was greeted with a round of explicatives of joy and embraces and slaps on the back and high-fives. The short guy passed out. Moe’s smile was overwhelming and infectious, causing a wave of good feeling to move through the fans. I felt it and smiled with him. This was more than a game-ending run, but a joy and acceptance one feels during these terribly slender corridors of time, hardly ever outside the diamond. Yep. Moe was safe. I sometimes think people are attracted to the game only for this opportunity. The seconds of euphoria like this really shouldn't be deconstructed as ephemeral flashes of some aimless sport. Nothing is random in this existence. Moments that we make light of or dismiss altogether just may have tendrils to the eternal vine. I was sure that Moe was wishing the game would last forever, that the high of the moment would turn into an eternity. After the celebration and when the preparations to go home begin, there’s a kind of melancholy followed by impatience, for those who pursue more than surface. You want the amazing feeling, the innocence, to go on without end, without interruption, without fail. This is not an unreasonable thing to hope for, nor is it a wasteful fancy. In fact, we were built to covet precisely this. We believe in the unseen, not the unfelt. Yes, this could last forever, with joys beyond imagination. But not now, not yet. Meanwhile, there are hours to fill and a path to take and it has secrets, and one them is in Moe’s name. He carried it with him all the time.
# # #