A Tip of the Cap
Frank was incredibly excited when he had been told that he was finally going to get his big chance in major league baseball. He was 29, so this might be the last time he would get such an opportunity to ‘make it’. The team’s regular right fielder had injured himself making a diving catch, and would be out of action for at least a week. Frank had to impress the owner, the coaches and the other players so that they might think of keeping him on the team.
The First Game – Living the Dream
The first game went relatively well. He got a hit, a two out no one on base single, and he caught a difficult ball, and threw out the runner at first to end the inning. Frank heard a few cheers from the hometown fans. It all felt like he was finally acting out the dream he had had since he was an unusually skillful seven-year-old little leaguer. He only wished that his parents lived in this city so that they could watch and hear what was going on. They had always encouraged him to follow his dream, never telling him to be ‘realistic’. His wife Maria believed in him too, never telling him to ‘get a real job.’ He had no doubt that she was watching the game on television with their two kids, all three cheering him on. The home team won. Frank received a good number of high fives from his fellow players.
The Second Game – A Nightmare
To begin with the stadium where they were to play in had a brand-new type of artificial turf. It was something that Frank was not used to. And it showed in his fielding. He tripped and fell twice, and felt a burning in his knee the second time. Fortunately that feeling did not last more than an inning. But there was laughter in the stands, and the feeling that it gave him lasted for the whole game. Fans were yelling out ‘He’s going to fall. He’s going fall’ whenever the ball came anywhere near him.
In the fourth inning, he was so careful about the turf that he bobbled a drive that could have led to a fairly routine double play. As it turned out, both runners were safe because of his hesitation.
This affected his hitting too. While he was at bat, he heard the cry “He’s going to fall. He’s going to fall”, and struck out twice, grounded out and popped out. His mind was too much on the fans, not enough on the ball coming his way.
And when he went into the change room after the game, no one asked about his knee, not even the trainer.
The Third Game – Could this be the End of the Dream?
The third game was on a Saturday. The stands were full. The team was back in their home field. He had heard that the player he was replacing was getting better. That made him feel that this might be the last day of the dream. Still, he wanted to create at least one memory that he could bring back with him to the minor leagues.
He was in for a big surprise. When he was warming up at batting practice before the game, he heard a familiar voice yell out to him, “Hit it out of the park, dad. Hit it out of the park”. It was his daughter Sonia, who was a very successful hitter in girls softball. He looked into the stands and saw his parents, his wife and his kids. They must have driven for several hours just to see him play.
During the warmup, Frank’s old glove, which had served him well for many years, ripped. He was handed another by one of his teammates. It was a little big for him, but Frank said nothing about that.
In Frank’s Words and Thoughts
‘So what if this may be the last game that I play in the major leagues. At least I got a chance, and have had my family watch me, witness me living my dream. How many people can make that claim? I just hope that I don’t screw up, like I did in the last game. At least this time I am in an outfield with natural grass. So I am unlikely to trip and fall.’
It’s the ninth inning now. We are leading by one run. There are two out, and there is a runner on second, the fleet-footed pinch-runner known as ‘Sammy Speed.’ The game has been good so far. I haven’t messed up. But then, I haven’t done anything memorably positive either. I walked in the third inning, and scored a run. I told my teammates that the walk was deliberate, as the pitcher and the coach feared my hitting skills. They actually laughed. I really felt then that I was a part of the team, not just a temporary replacement whose time in the big leagues was just about over.
There are two strikes on the batter now. One more and we will have won the game.
A Play in Right Field
The pitcher throws a ball that is incredibly fast, and away from the hitter. But the batter swings similarly fast. The bat connects with the ball with a loud crack. The ball flies into right field, a good distance away from Frank. He runs as fast as he can. In so doing, his borrowed over-sized glove falls off of his left hand.
Frank’s Thoughts and Deeds
‘No, no. I’m screwed now. No glove. Still I have to try to catch the ball. But it would be very hard to do that using just my hand. Wait. I have an idea… Amazing. I caught it. I know that my idea made that possible. I wonder whether they were able to film that on television. I would love to have a copy.
What the Fans Saw and Heard
The right fielder ran to catch the ball. Then the crowd saw his glove fall off of his left hand.. There was a disappointed ‘aww’ that came from some members of the crowd. But wait, the right fielder then took the baseball cap off of his head. Holding onto the peak of the cap, he was able to catch the ball in the part that had covered his head.. The inning and the game ended. The home team won. The rest of the players on the field ran to Frank to congratulate him on his fast thinking.
What the Manager Said To Frank
“Congratulations, son, on your fast thinking. I have never seen anyone do that before. You have a good brain for baseball. We are going to keep you on for the rest of the season.”