I am an emerging author working on a manuscript. I have a minor in Literature a hundred years ago from Grove City College in Pennsylvania, but am more or less completely self-inspired to share the written word. I have been published in my local newspapers with short sport-related essays, and have a WordPress site at https://billburkwrotesomething.law.blog/ where I post some of my writing. I am anxious to get my writing out there for people to read.
Left field is a long way from home plate, even farther from the dugout. It’s crazy-long after a bad inning, one where you booted a ball, or forgot to back up a base. It’s a freakin’ mile and a half when it’s the last inning and you’re on the wrong side of the score. And the shake-hand line, the dugout, the coach’s talk, and mom’s car ride home might as well be in Canada or somewhere when it’s the last out of the season, and you’re done playing for another year. That’s what happens though for almost every team. Only a few get to throw their gloves in the air after the last inning of the season and not care where it lands, even if it’s a Rawlings Heart of the Hide Tory Hunter PROTB24 glove you bought with your own money the summer before. I mean I know you go back out and pick them up, who’d leave a perfectly good glove on a field all Fall and Winter? But throwing it in the air and not caring, even for a few minutes while you make a pig-pile of your pitcher sounds pretty cool. I got to do the pig-pile a few times, when we won a big game in the last inning…no better feeling in the world, and every kid should feel that, but I never got to throw my glove in the air. When I coach my kid someday I’m gonna make sure we do that, even if we have to fake it. All wins aren’t the same I guess, and losing isn’t much fun. But they are part of the whole deal, aren’t they? And that walk from left field, when you lost? Oh man.
Rub of the Green
“I think I saw it bounce. Should be okay.”
Except it’s not. Somewhere deep down, where my subconscious and those bastard Golf God’s visit, I know it’s out. “Don’t think I’ll hit a provisional. Pretty sure I saw it bounce in bounds.” Please don’t tell me that went out. Please. Three days of tournament golf, and 53 of my drives not even close to a hazard, and you’re telling me number 54 is going to be out of bounds? Really? Of course, I should hit the provisional, but I refuse. It can’t be out!!
You know what happens next. My competitor knows a ball that’s OB when he sees one. He pulls a 3-wood and hits it down the middle. We make our way up the fairway, no eye contact. When we get to my drive its two feet on the wrong side of the white stakes. Out! And I walk back to the tee box.
The hill is steep; maybe 30 degrees. We ran sprints on it. Kids today call them gassers. We called them hill sprints. Didn’t need anything more descriptive, they were tough enough. Always the end of practice, always there to finish you off, to show you what you had left in the gas-tank if you really wanted to dig down there and take a good look. Maybe gassers is a better word for it after all.
So, the hill. Steep and the last thing you walk after a game. Up from the field to the locker room. Why are football fields built in holes? I guess it’s because once you build the school on the high ground (physical and moral), that’s all that’s left. Sometimes that walk was in heat that made your head swim, and sometimes in snow, but always up. Sometimes, when things went right, with your helmet in your hand so everyone could see your face. The hill was nothing those days…you felt alive with your aches and pains, and your joy, walking and celebrating with the guys you’ll tell wicked stories about when you’re older.
But the hill is something else when you come up short. It’s a heartbreaker, insult and injury and Everest, and you keep your helmet on so people can’t see streaks of eye-black mixed with disappointment and maybe tears. Nobody needs to see those tears. They aren’t theirs; they are yours, for your teammates and opportunity lost, and hard lessons. They have no place in the eyes of a teenage boy who’s learning to be a man, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. So, the helmet stays on and you don’t get to see. No, that hill is something else on those days. That’s a long walk.