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The Players Come and Go; the Colors Change; the Ballpark Moves

     It must be the game, because the players come and go. The uniforms change, team colors are replaced with more professional hues, and the ballpark moves from one part of the city to newer digs at the other end of town. It must be the game itself that keeps bringing us back.

     The pitcher steps up to the mound. He chaws his chaw. Stands still, gazing at the dirt at his feet. Several minutes pass – it seems - before he looks up and begins his long stare at the masked man squatting behind the plate. He shakes his head. Waits. Stares. Shakes his head. Waits. Watches the catcher’s fingers dance lightly to and fro and then come to rest against the inside of his thigh. Suddenly the catcher shifts into position, his fingers steady and alert on his glove.

     Outside the ballpark, people rush to their offices, hurry to catch their planes, dash to pick up a carton of milk on the way home. Sirens wail their way through streams of traffic. Shoppers jostle for parking spots at the mall. Freshly-arrived vacationers stand impatiently at the baggage carousel, waiting to grab their luggage as it circles ’round.

     The man on the mound nods.  He steps back. Waits. He steps forward. Stares at his target. Thinks… Who knows what he might be thinking? Suddenly his body contorts, his arm goes into motion and he delivers the ball – whack! Into the catcher’s mitt.

     Outside everyone’s late; there’s not enough time; people are arguing; stopping for gas; picking up the dry-cleaning.

     The batter, poised to make contact, silently watches the ball fly over the plate. Not his cup ’a tea. Maybe the next one. Boos arise from the stands.  Someone gets up, carefully steps over an assortment of knees to get to the aisle and works her way to the nearest concession stand for a couple of beers and a hot dog.

     A curly-headed boy sleeps on his father’s lap. The three fellows in the announcers’ booth reminisce about a game in Atlanta five years ago when the team was winning more that it was losing. The manager sits, arms folded, in the dugout. Watching. The camera roves hither and thither, catching the action in the stands, the announcer’s booth and the dugout. Close-up of the opponent’s pitcher, one arm wrapped, eyes downcast.

     On another channel, roaring red and yellow and green cars careen around the track, battling for first or second or third place – or just to finish the race in one piece.  Over on the news channel, footage of soldiers in Fallujah fills the screen with camouflage and tanks and swirling dust. The weather channel features tornadoes in the Midwest, and cartoons run rampant on, of course, the cartoon channel.

     It’s the fourth inning. Man on first. Man on third. Two to nothing. Chance to get ahead. The stands are silent. Waiting. Hoping. The pitcher sweats, but barely enough to notice. The batter glares, waits aggressively. The manager adjusts his cap and closes his eyes.

     Two strikes. No balls.

     I had to go pick up my son at the airport. I don’t know what happened next, but the game went eleven innings and we lost. It’s a great game, that baseball. 

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