The Utility Player, Chapter 14

Let’s tally up all of the good things about playing softball in Seaview today.

  1. The up got there on time, unlike last time, when he got there exactly in time for the last out. This time, he showed up right at the end of catch, which is too bad because playing catch is fun, one of the best things really; however, remember we are tallying good things, so let’s keep moving on to batting practice.
  2. The up hung around in the outfield for a little while so as not be rude and presumptuous by taking his swings before even playing the field. This gave him time to appreciate the blue of the sky and the green of the field. That Seaview field really is a nicely-kept field with lush green grass mixed with clover.
  3. Since nothing was really happening in right field during batting practice, the up hustled on in and took his cuts. This went well. He thwacked a few. This is what you want to do when you are new to a game or coming back to it after a two-year layoff. Rope a few line drives and you are everybody’s friend.
  4. This truth bore itself out as soon as the up went back out to the play the field. Third base had opened up so you knew it was going to be a good day. Yes, a hard hit ground ball one-hopped him through the wickets but guess what? That is the worst thing that happened all day. I am telling you this right now, at the expense perhaps of some narrative tension, but do we need narrative tension always? And also, aren’t you curious what the other good things are?
  5. People were nice to him! People were nice to the up all day long, not just polite nice but active nice as in complimenting his hiking boots and calling him by name. A guy in a bucket hat who was playing left started out calling him Brian, actually, but made the adjustment. It turns out there is this other guy Brian, who according to Bucket Hat is the up’s doppelganger. This is the term Bucket Hat used, and he brought it up himself. He could not possibly have known how much the up loves doppelgangers, yet there he was talking about this guy Brian who had lined out to him the week before. “Nope,” said the up, “that was some other dude,” and Bucket Hat agreed and from then on called the up by his name, not irritatingly like a salesperson but genuinely, like a friend.
  6. The up got picked! He was not left out. No! He thought he might start at third but that will have to wait. He alternated in short field which we all know is not hugely impressive, but listen! In his first inning in the field he caught two fly balls. First one, then the other. This establishes authority and since the up did not make any sort of deal about it, it established Unspoken Authority. How happy is he about that? Very, very happy.
  7. His wife walked all the way from Fair Harbor to watch him play. Isn’t that nice? Watching someone play is one of the nicest things you can do, and she did it.
  8. In the up’s at-bats, he singled, lined out but really hit it on the screws, singled, and singled again. He was Tony Gwynn out there. They had him batting 11th and he did comment, “I’m batting 11th a lot this year and that’s okay, I’m trying not to take it personally” — which is a kind of whatever thing to say — but listen, listen, listen: after the game one of his new friends said, “Next time you’re moving up to 10th, because you really did some hitting today.”
  9. Do you want to hear what Bucket Hat said earlier in the game? Okay. This is going to be the last thing. This came after Bucket Hat made a circus catch in left. Everyone high fived him and deservedly so. He went all out and made a diving catch. Sno-cone! It was the obvious highlight of the game. The less obvious, inside-softball highlight for the up was when Bucket Hat said, “I knew that guy wasn’t your real doppelganger because he couldn’t hit.”

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