Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Play Ball!"

"Would you be willing to call the game, Mr. Peterson?"
Dad and I were leaning against the front of my car which was parked on an embankment at the edge of the ball field. It was 71 degrees and the sun was out. But I had my Red Sox cap on and so I was well-prepared. We were well-prepared snack-wise, too. Dad and I had just eaten a Slim Jim apiece and we were devouring a bag of cheesy potato sticks. We watched the team practice for awhile. Jenna, in sunglasses, was warming up with the catcher. The game began and my daughter, his granddaughter, was on the mound. This was shaping up to be a perfect afternoon.
Suddenly, the game was interrupted as a player from a nearby field came over and spoke first to Ms. Bird (Jenna's coach and Spanish teacher) and then to the umpire. The ump spoke a few words to the player, Ms. Bird and the opposing coach. With apologies, he followed the invading player off the field to the other game. The kids reacted quickly:
"Is it a medical emergency?"
"But they had two umps already!"
"This sucks."
"What do we do now?"
"But they had two umps already!"
Dad and I watched the drama unfold. The two coaches conferred. It looked like the Marshfield coach agreed that the two coaches would take turns behind the plate.
"It looks like the game is going on after all," Dad said as Ms. Bird walked back to her team bench. Then past her bench. Then up the embankment.
"Would you be willing to call the game, Mr. Peterson?"
And she was looking at me.
A thousand thoughts went through my head. Most of them revolving around the fact that I am probably not qualified to do this.
"It'll be easy. Just call the game. Jenna tells me you practice her pitching with her each weekend."
"Yeah, we do."
"And she says that you know a strike zone."
"I think I do."
"You'll be great."
"Sure. I'll be glad to."
"That's great. Thank you so much."
"See you later, Dad," I said as I walked over the railing and down the embankment to the field. Both coaches walked with me.
"My Dad's gonna ump?" Jenna yells across the field.
"It looks that way," I reply, smiling.
"Cool", she said quietly as she grouped together with her teammates.
"The strike zone is from here," the Marshfield coach said while gesturing to his gut, "And here," said while gesturing to his knees." I nodded. "We give the kids some latitude on either side of the plate."
"Just be consistent and you'll do fine," Ms. Bird said supportively.
We had a discussion about whether or not to wear a chest protector and a helmet. At first it seemed like the choice was mine. A few words of caution from the coaches made my decision. "Protection" was the word of the day. I used the equipment for the catcher whose team was at-bat. dad had joined me behind the plate while I suited up. As the Marshfield coach walked back Dad piped up with, "Maybe the pitcher could throw a few so he gets to see a few in play from behind the plate?"
The coach and I just looked at him. "Dad, it'll be fine," I said handing him my baseball hat.
"Okay," Dad replied. "Good luck, son." And he walked back up the embankment to the car, smiling.
As we got into position both teams yelled out "Thank you!". I waved to both.
"Play ball!"
I won't bore you with the gory details of the game. But I will say this - the Marshfield pitcher can rifle a ball over home plate at at least 50 MPH. And only once did she catch me in the left shin. The crack of my bone was as the crack of the bat - loud. Collective gasps came from both benches. I spun a little, away from the pitch. I put my foot down to make sure I could stand on it. There will be one hell of a bruise tomorrow.
"Ow! that hurt from here!"
"Is he okay?"
"Omigod, are you all right?"
"Ball 1!" I called out. Everyone laughed. The game resumed.
I iced it later on that evening.
During the third inning Marshfield started to score. Jenna seemed a bit flustered. Between innings I asked Ms Bird "Do you think my presence at the plate could be throwing her off? Because, if it is, I'd rather not do this." She assured me it wasn't. Then she went to the mound. Jenna emphatically shook her head "no" and Ms. Bird walked off the field, giving me a "thumbs up" sign.
Every once in a while I would like up and watch my Dad who was beaming with pride. Hopefully for Jenna but I think some was for me, too. Dad took a picture of me behind the plate. A memento.
Later on during the game the sideline was filled with spectators. Many adults and a lot of kids. No one gave me a hard time.
Marshfield ended up winning the game. Jenna was on the mound the entire time. I had fun.
No one disputed any calls and, according to Jenna (post-game) I had a consistent strike zone. I didn't embarrass her with her friends.
Most importantly, while I didn't get to spend the time just chatting with the old man and watching Jenna play ball from the sidelines I got so much more instead. I had the rare opportunity to watch my daughter pitch a game from behind home plate.
"Would you be willing to call the game, Mr. Peterson?"
Yes I would.
This was a perfect afternoon.


Blogger Bridget said...

WOW...what a perfect afternoon indeed! How cool to have that kind of an opportunity to watch Jenna pitch from that vantage point. I wish I could have seen that one.

9:24 AM, May 08, 2008  
Blogger FoxInDetox said...

I'm sure your dad wasn't the only one beaming with pride. They never like to admit it, but I'm sure Jenna was too. Nice post!

11:54 AM, May 08, 2008  
Blogger Letera said...

That is just so awesome. What a great time had by all it seems. You are such a good dad.

9:54 PM, May 09, 2008  

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