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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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by Jon Sindell


 

 

“He was compensating,” said the ex. “His daughter needed a dad who was there, not a five–dollar ball. Still,”—here she twisted the grin she reserved for him only—“it would have been an economical present.” She bit her lip as remorse took hold.

 

***

 

“Old Hank,” a softball buddy smiled. “Dude was crazy. Ran onto the field at an A’s game once and dodged security for two minutes maybe.”

 

“Not crazy,” said another. “He made five–hundred bucks.”

 

“That’s right,” said a third, “and fifty was mine. And he took us all to the game with that cash.”

 

They drank in Hank’s honor.


***

  

“He was a YouTube junkie,” said a friend who was not a fan. “He watched it all day.”


“Not any old thing,” said a friend who liked baseball. “Baseball bloopers were his faves.  Like that fan

who caught a ball in his beer. And great catches by fans, like that guy who caught a ball while holding his kid. Hell, Hank probably thought he’d get on TV. Or the scoreboard, at least.” He lowered his head, but did not drink.

 

“The ball was hit by Pablo Sandoval,” the first friend said helpfully. “He’s famous, right? It would have been a collector’s item.”

 

“He did love the Panda,” the fan friend admitted.

 

***

 

“Even as a boy, he could never take criticism. He never liked the idea of it even.” His dad shook his head. “He thought it was unfair how they’d boo a fan who drops a foul ball. He’d say, if they could catch it barehanded, they’d be out on the field instead of the players.” Hank’s father frowned in contemplation of whether he had been too critical of his son. “Maybe he was afraid of being booed,” he murmured.

 

But it wasn’t that, not any of it.

 

It was just the hypnotic spell of the ball, rising up from the batter’s box and arcing through the sky as if it had chosen him alone out of 40,000 fans, looking like the white rubber ball his dad had thrown to him thousands of times on soft summer mornings. He’d chased those pop–ups hour on hour, and sometimes he’d catch them, and sometimes he’d drop them—and when he dropped them, he’d dive to the ground to pick the ball up as if the winning run of the last World Series ever, were standing on third and ready to score. He dove like that when the ball brushed his fingers and sank below the third–deck railing.