This One Time, 107

This one time I was at a baseball game, supporting our local Boys of Summer, I suppose, just like I had done as a little girl. The town’s minor league team was a feeder for a not-very-successful major league team. I had fun guessing and gauging the “just having a great time out there doing what I love” quotient versus the “hopelessness for my career” miasma that hovered over the whole stadium. I had notepads where I kept my own stats for each player, getting out the binoculars so I could read faces, make notes of petit-tantrums, et cetera. I had developed my own scales over the years. I made it out to every game I could and kept my statistics religiously.

I also had stats for the club owner, the various coaches, the referees, and a couple of the more prominent hardcore fans. And the local bookies, of course. I made no real secret of what I was doing, but I didn’t go out of my way to correct the assumptions of those who thought they could tell by looking. Or anyone who thought I was just some crazy old bat playing a complicated game of pretending to compile real stats.

All I know is I drink for free at the bar owned by one of the bookies who regularly asked my opinion of who was having good days or bad days. I’d developed pretty good predictors for who was likely to have a sloppy game or push themselves to injury. He’d made plenty of money tweaking the odds to cover the information I gave him. When I showed him my stack of notebooks and a printout of one of my spreadsheets, he just sat there in quiet awe for fifteen minutes.

He’s asked me out four times since then. Three official dates and one spontaneous proposition for something that I was raised to think was vile but I’ve always had my doubts if people had been strictly honest to me about. I’m sure I’ll eventually take him up on one of his offers and see how it goes.

This one game was something else, however. It was the bottom of the fifth inning and nobody had scored, which, for my boys out there, was a bit rare. To keep the scoring down, you needed excellent pitching or at least an outfield that could get the ball to the bases reliably, and minor league teams, in my experience, tended to be a bit weak on both. Sometimes we would get scores that looked like scores for a football game. I’m not sure what the problem was, since this was the sign of a very good game indeed, but there was an air of frustration about the place that was both out-of-place and hard to pin down. Maybe the power-hitters, used to being the stars of the show, were the main source of the building ire, echoed and amplified by their fans in the seats.

Or maybe this was just what a good game felt like. I’d rarely been to a major league game to compare. Considering the parts of the experience I enjoy, it seemed a bit much effort to travel hundreds of miles just to study the differences.

But at the bottom of the fifth inning, a huge black shape circled in front of the lights, flying just over the seats and then dove at the field. At the same time, two of those small Chinese dogs, the ones that look like some kind of tiny bulldog in the face and in their build, came tearing out onto the field from the seats behind home plate, snarling and yapping for all they were worth. Then the bird or bat or whatever it was dropped what must have been a tennis ball and disappeared behind the lights.

The dogs were wearing little outfits. One had something on that looked for all the world like an ocelot cape like my mother used to wear when the opera came to town. The other was wearing some kind of red sweater with a hood that was flapping around its shoulders. It took them no time at all to corner the little ball and start chasing each other around the infield, effectively running the bases. Then a man not much older than I am made his way over a fence, the stem of a pipe clenched firmly in his teeth, spilling ashes and embers, and tugging an enormous pistol out of the bib pocket of his overalls.

The dogs rounded home plate and headed straight for the man, who fired a couple of panicked wild shots at them before the first base coach tackled him from behind and took him down. The dogs ran up and licked their faces a couple of times before a young lady made her way up the baseline to collect her dogs and yell at the man for shooting at them. The umpire, who had followed her, calmed her down and helped her, with a dog under each arm like a football, off the field. Likewise a couple of our home team players pried the man apart from his gun and helped him into the dugout to hold him until someone could decide what to do.

The game resumed maybe ten minutes later, but nobody’s heart was in it. The outfield kept trying to look past the lights to see if the bat-thing was coming back. Neither of the pitchers could concentrate and the scores began to creep back up into familiar territory. And every once in a while there was a happy little bark from behind home plate.


April 17, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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