Safe, and Out, at Second Base


I was the youngest one on the makeshift softball field, but I was confident I could play with the teenagers. I had tagged along with my parents who had volunteered to take the youth from our church to a camp outside of Birmingham for the weekend. I wanted to join the game. Certainly, I could play with the teenagers and their camp counselors. Some of the players were only a few years older than me. Furthermore, I loved baseball. To my delight, I was allowed to play.

There is only one part of the game I remember. It’s a play that has been repeated hundreds of times in our family—usually in our young children’s bedrooms and just before “lights out.” It’s was their favorite bedtime story from my childhood.

The play begins with me standing in the batter’s box. It was my turn to bat. This was my chance to show these teenagers that I could play, too. The ball came my way and I knew what to do. I hit it, and hit it well. The ball went far into left field. I was thrilled as the teenagers went chasing after my ball. I made it safely to first base. First base, however, wasn’t good enough. I thought I could turn my hit into a double. I never stopped at first, I just kept running.

Somebody in left field did finally get to my ball. He picked it up and, seeing me running, threw the ball toward the second baseman. I say second base-man; the truth is that it was a second base-woman. It’s my description of this second base-woman that my children loved. Her name was Nancy. Nancy was tall. Nancy was big. Nancy was heavy. However, the bedtime story was never complete without the most descriptive picture of Nancy. With my arms and hands stretched out as wide as they could go, I would exaggeratingly say, “And Nancy’s bottom was this big.”

I don’t how much Nancy knew about softball, but she apparently knew enough to know that it was her job to stand at second and catch the ball. Therefore, on second base she stood. The base was simply a discarded piece of cardboard so typical of pickup ball games. Yet, there she stood, firmly planted on second.

I could see the ball making its way to second base. I could also see Nancy in position. It was obvious to me that this was going to be a close play. I played baseball almost daily with my friends. I knew how to bat, catch and throw. I also knew how to slide. On this afternoon, streaking toward second, I realized I would need to utilize this latter skill if I was to have a chance at being safe.

It was a slide any baseball coach would appreciate—feet first. I hit the base just milliseconds before the ball arrived. I was safe. I had a double! Yet, the thrill of the moment was agonizingly brief. Not only did I safely touch second, I also touched Nancy. The force of my slide sent the cardboard base sailing and lifted Nancy off her feet. I wish I could say that Nancy landed on her feet, but if that were the case, then I wouldn’t be telling this story. I don’t know where Nancy’s feet went. No, all I know is where Nancy’s bottom landed. It was my head that cushioned her fall. It was direct hit.

Once the large mass smothering my face was removed I could see the players gathering around. I remember my mom coming over and laughing embarrassingly for Nancy. “Mom, why are you laughing?” I wanted to say. My head hurt—it really hurt. I lay on the ground for moments before my pride took over and I rose to my feet. My pride, however, was not enough to keep me in the game. I went straight to the cabins and took my place in the long line of bunk beds. I stayed there till supper. Yes, I was safe at second…but out—out of the game.

I should have settled for a single.

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