David Lance Goines

May 9, 1993

The batter steps up to the plate, spits, waggles the bat around experimentally and swings hard at the first pitch. It's a high blooping infield fly, neatly fielded on the first bounce by the shortstop. The throw is to first, beating out the runner by a length. But wait! The first baseman bobbles the ball, dropping it. Seizing the golden moment--the almost divine reprieve--the runner tags up and goes for second . . . the first baseman throws and . . . stretching, leaping into the air, it's over the second baseman's head! The runner tags second and streaks for third, his hat snatched away by the wind. The centerfielder snags the rolling ball and heaves with all his might . . . and the third baseman is about six feet to the right of the throw . . . the runner, feet pumping, arms churning, rounds third in a wide arc and dashes for home . . . the third baseman rares back and throws with every fiber of his being and . . . the ball bounces behind the plate and the runner beats the tag in a standup inside-the-ballpark home run! The runner throws up his arms in triumph, capering with pure distilled joy, scoring another run and a run-batted-in for the Berkeley Pee-Wee League Wholesale Depots in their first game of the season against the Boosters. His teammates rise as one, cheering wildly; the crowd goes crazy, eating their hotdogs with the wrappers still on, spilling drinks and momentarily losing track of infants in the outfield (Time out! Will mothers please keep their kids out of the playing field!).

On the whole, a pretty exciting game. The pint-sized boys (six-and-a-half to eight years old, most of them so small that their caps pose a real vision problem, not even held up out of their eyes by their Dumbo-sized jug-ears), at the beginning of every inning practice throwing and fielding air-balls when they're not practicing spitting (how do you get the spit to come out in a thin stream instead of hanging up on your lip or spraying out in an unimpressive mist? How do those Major-leaguers do that?) every one of them either Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio or both rolled into one, acting really cool after a good play and then spazzing out and erasing the credit, blowing the whole studied pose when the ball rolls right between their legs. Not yet at the point where they're constantly hitching at their jock-strap when they're not spitting and being cool, but getting there.

He eats, sleeps and breathes baseball. If he's not practicing (Mom, I can't miss a game. I'm one of the best players. They need me!) he's messing with his baseball card collection or scrounging cash to buy more at Dave's Dougout. He goes to sleep with an observation about fielding on his lips and finishes the sentence when he wakes up in the morning. His glove is actually part of his body. The kid has found his calling: he's going to be a major league third-baseman or die in the attempt or discover girls and get sidetracked, but between June and September, his whole life is out there on the eternal summer diamond, green grass and blue sky and sliding (Safe! Safe forever!) into second base to the roar of the crowd.