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The Minor Leagues

October 14, 2010

by James Brush

Foul Ball Coming

Flying west over the diamond, egrets glow orange in the setting sun as they round second base and head over and beyond third, deep into foul ball territory. It’s good to watch the sky. You might see birds, perhaps an owl. You might see free-tail bats racing through the insect swarms around the stadium lights. You might even see that foul ball coming right at you. Hopefully you have a hat to use for a glove; otherwise, that ball will sting when it smashes into your palm.

The year Andy Pettitte came down from the Astros for some rehab work, the cars were an extension of the first base line, stretching down 79 all the way to the interstate. He stood above the opposition like Goliath facing 9 Davids, but wanting to give them hope, he let them stay in the game until sometime in the 6th when he decided it was over. Then, the only bats we heard were the ones hunting insects in the glow above.

In the minor leagues, we are ladies and gentlemen and respect the good play. Sure, things can get rowdy on Thursday nights when the beers and dogs go for a buck, but stout applause greets any man who plays well. Home runs, doubles, triples, we’ll cheer work well done whether by the home team or the visitors.

Minor league stormtrooper

There are stormtroopers, Jedi knights and even Boba Fett wandering around the stadium. I don’t know why. There could be trouble. A stormtrooper stops near our section, pauses while everyone takes his picture. He looks so real, I worry that he’ll ask to see the papers for my droids and I’ll have to blast my way back to my ship — a real piece of junk, but she’ll make point-five past light speed. Made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, I tell anyone who will listen.

In the front of section 119 almost everyone has a radar gun, held toward home in steady hands, measuring each pitcher’s worth and tallying the results in worn notebooks. These radar guns are windows to the future flashing the potential greatness of up-and-comers in red digital miles-per-hour, but they are also portals to the past documenting the steady irreversible slowing of arms that once threw lightning in the big leagues.

There is a crack, and the crowd silences as the ball sails over the outfield. You can hear the prayers, the screams and cheers waiting on thousands of lips. If the ball falls short, the stadium will sigh. When it clears the wall, the crowd lets go. Did you see that? we all ask whoever’s closest, but they don’t answer because they’re asking the same question. Hats circulate through the crowd, collecting fives, tens (twenties on those one-dollar Thursdays), tips for the batter, that master of physics, who stopped and restarted time with nothing more complicated than a wooden stick.

Stadium lights

Some nights it all comes down to the bottom of the 9th. One more strike and the game is over. Or one good hit — it could go either way. There is nothing else in the world but the pitcher and the batter staring one another down. Even the players disappear as the pitch is released. All that remains is a small sphere hurtling through space toward the batter and a strangely silent crowd that breathes again only when the ball thumps into the catcher’s mitt. There are scattered cheers, and fireworks if it’s Friday, but everyone knows this series will continue tomorrow night.

Click on photos to see larger versions.

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James Brush lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat and two rescued greyhounds. He teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. He doesn’t mind crowds if the music is good or the game is well-played. A list of publication credits and links can be found here. You can find him online at Coyote Mercury.

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  1. Deb
    October 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Engaging prose with those surpring images. A delight to read and see!

  1. October 15, 2010 at 7:38 pm
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