It’s the first Saturday in June, and it’s Babe Ruth baseball. Blue sky. Green grass. Brown dirt. Wind, because it’s Ellensburg, carrying the ball out to right on the CWU field, always right field (would the manager put on the Griffey shift for the wind? why not?). Young kids, playing for pride. Playing to learn. For the joy of the game. That’s all. Nothing else at stake.
As often happens at this level, one team is bigger, stronger, more skilled than the other. And they have fancier uniforms. The score shows it – they’re up six to nothing by the time the first inning is over. But real baseball fans know the score is only half the story, if that.
There are so many mistakes made: missing the cut off man. Not running hard around third. Fumbling an easy grounder. Letting a runner steal. Swinging at a pitch so far outside it might as well be in Kittitas. Hesitating for a moment – hang on to the ball? toss it to the pitcher? – and then the runner is safe at first and another run’s scored. So many mistakes, you lose count.
And then – a kid chases a fly ball that’s tailing away from him fast, and dives to scoop it up just before it hits the grass. A string of hits finally scores a run, small-ball style. A pitcher fools a batter, badly, with the movement on his fastball.
It’s eleven to two going into the fourth. Major leaguers play games like this, sometimes, too: when your team is out of it early, but you have to gut it out, do your job. Do it the same as if were in a tie game, as if the score was zero to zero heading into the ninth. If you stay focused on your job, it’s possible to make something happen. A hit, a run, a double play. You never know. It’s the reason you hustle to first every time your bat hits the ball, no matter if it looks like an easy out. The fielder might drop it, or make a bad throw, or it might glance off the pitcher’s foot and wind up making the first baseman chase it down the line.
You never know. Just like life.
Baseball fans know this. We annoy our friends and families regularly, with this phrase: just like life. As my friends in the Ellensburg-based band Avolition put it in their song, Take the Time: “Work for what you wish for, you might get it.”
Might is the operative word there. You might get it, or you might wind up on the wrong end of a fourteen to four rout.
Or, you might remember how it felt when you chased down that fly ball tailing away from you fast, stretched out your arm and felt the ball go thwump in your glove just before it hit the grass, and you might try to do that, again, next time.