Monday, February 12, 2018

Pockets Full of Sand

Third base looks strange with somebody else’s kid on it. My kid is in the dugout wearing a hard cast covering the wrist he broke at school two weeks ago. The opposing team is from Korea. Their players are only a year older than ours but already look like men.
“That pitcher swore to me he’s twelve. He showed me his birthdate on his driver’s license,” our coach says. It’s an old joke that doesn’t exactly work in this international context, but the parents huddled in the stands chuckle anyway. It’s cold outside for daytime in Southern California and it doesn’t feel like baseball weather. The black coat I’m wearing hasn’t been out of the trunk of the car since a trip to the beach last November. I can feel sand in the pockets.

“Heads up! Heads!” A foul ball hits the eucalyptus tree behind the bullpen, scattering a few wild parrots. The next pitch, a fastball, hits our batter in the bicep.
“That pitch looks good on you, son! Walk it off, Number 12,” our coach says.
“Way to wear it!” I can hear my son call out from his place on the sidelines.
We applaud as the batter takes his place on first base. The old metal risers we’re sitting on vibrate whenever anyone shifts in their seat. I wish I had brought a Thermos of coffee with me. I’m out of practice. The last few weeks of hospital visits and doctor’s appointments feel far away but we’re only in the middle of the healing process.
Our team takes the field. Their first batter fouls it off straight at his coach who jumps out of the way and yells out something in Korean. We all laugh. None of us speak the language, but from his tone we know he’s asking if his player is trying to kill him. Like dad jokes, coach jokes are universal.
My son closes the field gate behind him and walks past. “How’d you end up in a cast?” I hear a mom ask. He explains that he fell backwards on his arm horsing around at recess. The day he fell, when my phone rang I could see the name of the school on my caller ID. When I answered, all I could hear was my son screaming in the background.
“Yikes. Well, you’ll be back on the field before you know it,” the mom says.
“Yeah, I guess so,” he says waving his cast and heads off in the direction of the bathrooms.