Thursday, April 08, 2004

Batting Cage Groupie

Last post sucked. I apologize. All three of you deserve better, which I'll try to do, so without further ado, here's today's entry:


"Out to left field." First swing. The ball barely cleared the machines, straight into the imaginary left fielder's glove.


"Out to center field." Same drill; only this time to the imaginary center fielder.

. . .

"DAMMIT!" I shouted that one after a spectacular nearly-landing-on-my-ass strike, when I felt a twinge in my side.

"I like it when they talk to themselves," she said, while leaning against the fence, helmet balanced on her head. Red hair peaked out from under the helmet and she cradled a bat in her skinny arms. The slightly awkward way she held herself - along with the acne - put her age at right around 16.

"He does it all the time," Shane replied.

I started practicing for softball yesterday. I opened my regimen with a one-hour session at the batting cages, where she alternated between sitting along the fence and leaning over the railing and watched my friend Shane and I hit pop-ups and ground-outs as she gently massaged her bat. I started getting a little nervous when she kissed the bat and started talking to it.

When Shane looked at her, kind of smiling, she said, "It's okay; we don't have the same DNA."

I stopped making eye conatact and started slinking away, figuring she was going to turn on me, cracking that Louisville Slugger over my head at any moment. Fortunately, the semi-pro softball player showed up and she leaned over the rail, admiring his stroke, so to speak.

OK, so she was odd but harmless. I imagined her hanging out at school with her one friend - the outcasts (believe me, I know that group - we can smell our own), and hitting the batting cages alone after school.

Shane and I took off, headed to our team practice, and she was in the parking lot, trying to back her approximately 85-foot long station wagon out of its parking space. I remembered a similar scene, with me trying to back a 18-ton Buick LeSabre out of a crowded parking spot (and actually hitting the cars behind me).

And I guess, in a strange way, I kind of envied her. This girl wasn't afraid to be herself in front of a bunch of strangers. At her age, I wouldn't have said a word to anyone I didn't know. Heck, I still don't like it when strangers talk to me; I get nervous (especially when it's in the men's room. I HATE that.). In a few years, she'll head of to college and have the time of her life. While I wouldn't give up my life for anything, sometimes it's nice to remember a time before mortgages, careers and crazy ex-girlfriends.

So as I drove off to practice, I remembered those days, and I couldn't help but smile.

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