The Utility Player, Chapter 18

The decision to dive after a ground ball in the shallow outfield was a poor one, both in retrospect and at the time; however, the up had been wanting to dive.

This desire arose when his wife encouraged him to wear the Mets jersey she had got him with July as the player name on the back and 16 as the number. July 16! His birthday. On a Mets uni. That is love. She wanted him to wear it to go play softball in Seaview but his only clean pair of shorts were Mets shorts and that would be too much Mets.

Also, he said, “What if I dive for a ball and the shirt gets grass-stained?”

That would be awesome, is the correct answer. Also reasonable is the one his wife gave: “It’s polyester.” Nevertheless, the up secretly wanted to save his Mets July 16 Jersey for the next day’s trip into NYC, where he expected people, especially ardent Mets fans, to follow him around like the Pied Piper.

They did, in his mind. So it all worked out except for the up having geared up to dive for a ball, which he did at the first opportunity, a grounder he could also have just leaned towards or else let get by him. He was playing short center, a utility position if ever there was one, where if a ball gets by you it’s like, well, technically you’re really not even supposed to be there.

But as you now know, the up was primed to dive and dive he did, thus bruising or perhaps cracking a rib, which one we’ll never know. While the game — a close one! — was going on, he was distracted by the conviviality. Afterwards came the throb.

Now he actually feels okay unless he needs to take a deep breath or get up from sitting. Then he feels an owwie. But I’ll tell you something that comes straight from the up’s rib-protected heart: sports injuries — wear them with pride. You come by them honestly. Foolishly, perhaps, but honestly. And the up really doesn’t feel bad that he was primed to go for it. In fact, he feels pretty good.

PS For a far more maniacal version of these softball games by someone far more devout, read this.

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