Monday, June 12, 2017

The Catch (Part Two)

It is known simply as "the catch." My daughter and I were at perfect vantage point in the stands when Derek Jeter ran as if one step clear of rampaging bull and dove, Greg Louganis like, headfirst into the stands, risking life and limb (or at least a bruise or two on the face) in pursuit of a baseball and an out. He left his feet a mere mortal, but emerged from the clutter of bodies and metal a god.

This effort was better.

It was a one inning softball game, fielded on each side by 50 or so players (I use that term as loosely as humanly possible). Our capacity was from woeful to formerly wonderful. Our ages ranged from my body still responds sometimes to my commands to what the hell were you thinking bringing me out here. We were joined as one in celebration of the wedding of my daughter to the man who is the centerpiece of this tale.

Everyone on each squad would bat once, and each was welcome to take a place (I can't call it a position) when his team was on defense. There was a family of ducklings that had taken possession of part of the outfield, and they were slowly moving as one unit in single file as the game began. Children who I had coached a generation before were scattered  in small groupings, theoretically in the outfield to perform a function, but for most part merely taking up a different physical space in which to conduct conversation.
The outfield wall in straight away center was a lake, probably a good 600 feet from the batter's box. I doubt Aaron Judge could have deposited a ball that far removed from where he would have stood staring out at the pitcher. Down the left field line, was a thicket of bushes and trees, ranging from a few feet in foul territory to a spot, near third base, maybe 10 to 12 yards from where my future son in law stood guard of the hot corner.
I was stationed in what should have been the third base coaching box. There were maybe 20 to 25 outs and anywhere from a few to more than a few runs in, runners on first and second, when it happened.
I am certain I barked out instructions to the runner on second reminding him or her not to run on anything in the air but to watch for my sign on whether to tag up. I might as well have been giving directions to the nearest Jiffy Lube.
The emotion of the moment was almost palpable. This must have been what it was like when Casey at bat was penned. The third basemen tensed, getting into that athlete's crouch that I only now find myself in unintentionally and with great discomfort. At bat, stood some man or woman who, in all likelihood, was wondering if he or she had time for a nap before the next activity. The pitcher peered in for a sign from the catcher, who I think was contemplating if and when he could inform everyone that his wife was pregnant.
And then there was an unmistakable thwack of the bat, or maybe it was more like the thud of the bat, as softball and soft swing met in a moment of athletic purity. The pop up, not more than a story or so high, drifted past the third base line towards the waiting arms of the grove. The left fielder, or maybe the short left fielder, or the short short left fielder, would make valiant effort, the ball would fall harmlessly to earth, the batter would take his or her stance once more, and life would go on as intended.
But the man who would be married to my daughter in less than two days, was not thinking about his wedding vows or the life he would lead hereafter. He was not contemplating his finances or the weather or even wondering if the ducklings were being bothered by the mass of humanity that had descended on their territory. No, for him, there was an urgent call to action, to make the effort, no matter how risky, or futile, in pursuit of that quickly falling orb, its parabola almost done.
And as he ran full tilt and then left his feet, landing with great force in the tangles and brambles, my thoughts turned to Derek Jeter. Here I was in the third base box, with the same angle of vision that I had on that day so many years before, as my daughter and I sat in wonder at the majesty of what we were witnessing. And the first and only thought I had at that moment was I hoped that my future son in law was not landing in a field of poison ivy.
I will not tell you whether or not he made the catch. It was, after all, the effort of both Jeter and my now son in law that is the tale.. Emerging bloodied or not, with ball in hand or empty, the legend is of leaving it all on the field.  A man jumped into the stands and another into the bushes. And on each occasion, a legend was born.
But more than all that, I thank god there was no poison ivy.


Harvey F Leeds said...

AL BENTON WOULD BE PROUD!! Great writing as always and best wedding ever!! Congrats to all!!

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

This is perfect!

ANL (formerly AN)