Many summers ago, I went to a church picnic at Rowlette Park in Tampa. I was about thirteen or so. We played softball while the burgers and dogs were cooking. I was a pretty good baseball player and played little league throughout my youth. I wasn’t a pitcher, but a first baseman and centerfielder. I played catcher once when Robbie Ochs was sick, but didn’t like it. All that protective equipment, the foul balls, the bad pitches and hunting for the ball; I begged to go back to the field until coach relented.
During this church softball game, I pitched. No biggie, right? Softball? Piece of cake.
The first batter was Joe Hamilton. Joe was in his twenties, a great guy, big smile and big heart. Joe was also a giant shaped like a wedge. His body tapered from Grand Teton shoulders to island sized hands, and legs so long it took four days to travel from hip to toe and back.
However, Joe was a great guy, big smile and big heart. Peachy keen, right? Hey, I was a great baseball player, no problem.
Joe walks to the plate swinging three redwood trees to warm up. He drops them and picks up what must have been an oak wood bat in an ash wood veneer. He’s swinging this thing like it’s a toothpick. I’m a little concerned.
I take a signal from the catcher, nod, and wind up. I rear back and throw this softball – underhand, of course – in Joe’s direction. There it goes, faster than a speeding snail. He swings. A miss! Yes! I have this!
The catcher tosses the softball back. I take another signal, nod, and wind up. I rear back and toss another underhanded shot Joe’s way. The ball flies across the field, straight as an arrow. He swings. He connects. Sweat flies from his brow and smacks me in the face. The ball is coming at me. At me!
The ball is flying toward me at hundreds of miles per hour, thousands perhaps, I don’t know. Maybe the ball has afterburners. Maybe it’s an F-4 Phantom ball!
Then time slows. It crawls past. It loses all meaning. Spock would have been amazed.
As the ball approaches me in slo-mo, it’s elongated. It is no longer round. It has stretched to about a foot long and is making for my head with glee! The stitching appears to be unraveling. The ball is flying so fast that the brand name is stretched too:
R A W L I N G S
The softball (soft?…Hah!) is flying at me with the force of a battleship’s full broadside and all I can think is “Oh. Wow. Cool. The ball is elongated. Wait! I need to duck.”
There is no way I can catch the ball; it’s coming too fast. So I duck. Just in time. My life flashes before me as the ball skims my ear lobe, flies past me, and rises in a gradual trajectory into low-Earth orbit.
It may be there today, twinkling like a little star, traveling the cosmos among its big brother satellites, carrying a bit of DNA ripped from the bottom of my earlobe.
Life is like that. Things run along fine. There are hits and misses, bunts, stolen bases, basket catches, behind the head catches, home runs. Sometimes life throws an elongated softball at you. You can either duck or get smacked in the head.
Don’t get smacked in the head. Know when to duck and let it go.