To see part 1, click below.
Coach: Get out in right field and just don’t move. Okay?
Me: Okie Dokie.
I waved to my parents and ran into position in far right field. I think it was during the third of fourth inning when a batter on the opposing team hit a zipper directly toward right field. The ball peaked high over the field and began to descend right after it cleared first base. Every person watching from the bleachers was fixated on the ball’s trajectory. It was headed directly toward me.
This was the moment my dad had wanted. The moment his son would shock the world by catching his first baseball. There’d be screams of joy. Hugs for days. A party even.
My dad must have been heartbroken when he and the other family and friends watched as the ball dropped from the sky and landed softly in the shallow grass in outer right field. At nearly the same moment the ball made contact with the ground, I jumped up in excitement, oblivious to my missed super stardom. I didn’t care. I just found my first four leaf clover.
“Mom. Look!” I held my bounty up so she could share in the dazzlement.
My dad dropped his head into his hands and wept. My coach dropped to his knees and pounded his head against the ground.
I looked for my mom. She stood behind my dad and offered me a shielded thumbs up. She understood the skill and patience required to locate a four leaf clover in a field that expansive. What were the odds?
My baseball career ended that afternoon. I was thrilled. The car ride home was tense.
“You didn’t even try,” my dad said.
“I was out there in this ridiculous uniform, wasn’t I?” I replied.
“All you had to do was open your glove. The ball would have dropped right into it.”
I leaned in between the two front seats. “That’s selfish, Dad. Did it ever occur to you that I couldn’t care less whether I caught the stupid ball. And look at me. I’m wearing a royal blue and pumpkin jersey. Haven’t I suffered enough for one day.”
My dad slowly came around. He even applauded my balance beam routine that I performed on the bench of our picnic table the following month.
My dad passed away in August of 2014. He lived a full life with many great memories. I miss him. I’m also willing to bet that when I was preparing for the dismount after my grueling balance beam routine, my dad had the same reaction as the one he displayed on those bleachers in the Summer of 1978. He hoped and dreamed I’d nail it. And boy did I ever. Perfect landing!