The Utility Player, Chapter 10

“I am good,” thinks the utility player, calmly enough to not crash his car beneath the Glendale and Venture freeway interchange. It is a breathtaking leap of concrete stirring enough to distract him even when he is not having epiphanies, but the up is a safe driver, keeping those hands at 10 and 2 and eyes on the road except for the occasional nearly seamless interlude when he identifies songs on the radio with his phone, typically La Raza or hip-hop from back in the day.

What he is good at is baseball, which is fortunate considering how much of his time and soul he pours into the sport. Here is how he knows. In the game he just played, he singled to drive in a run with the bases loaded in his first at-bat, grounded into a run-scoring Fielder’s Choice the second time up; third time up proved human with a ground out.

His fourth time up he hit the ball on a line drive hard enough to bounce right off the left fielder’s glove. You might say E7, and you would be correct: it is an error on the left fielder, who really is supposed to catch the ball that is hit on a line drive straight to him. Still, who hit that screamer? The up!

Furthermore, in the field, the up niftily handled not just one routine ground ball hit right to him at third, but also another which required ranging to his left, which he did just fine, making the accurate and in-time throw both times. Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssss. He has been practicing throwing accuracy for nine years, and building his arm strength over the last two years by working out with elastic bands in his garage. And here’s the payoff: the up is good!

His teammates even said so, especially after the nifty fielding of that second grounder. To which the up replied, “I’ve been playing this game a long time.”

That I do object to. The up’s old-man-ificitation of himself. There’s no need. Everybody knows. There was a way older guy on the other team, who by the way were getting trounced so badly there was no score other than a lot to a little.

“That guy used to be on our team for a long time,” said not one but two of the up’s teammates, each using the identical phrasing. “He’s 84,” they both also said. Now that’s old. This guy was playing first base when the up sidled into first after the E7, and in the grand tradition of first base players, 84 had some repartee prepared.

“That was a well-played card,” 84 said. Did he actually say “card”? The up couldn’t really hear him because his ears were full of adrenaline. Nevertheless, the up did witness the 84-year-old guy’s joy of being out there, and that is what really counts.

Afterward, to celebrate, the up bought all the food and cold beverages to a party, where he temporarily turned down the volume on “Got to Give It Up” just long enough to announce to the assembled that he is good.

That kid is a phenom.

His friends toast him because he is blessed. Then he got bested by a three-year-old in a game of Whiffle ball. They traded dingers, then the youngster blasted a walk-off beyond the confines, into the street.

I’ll tell you something. That kid is a phenom.

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