The summer sun has set, but my son, 5, is shouting for more practice, more pop flies. I insist on a tennis ball. The darkness might fool him, I say, and I don’t want him to take a baseball in the face. He indulges me, then catches six, eight, ten in a row.
He is happiest when I induce highlight-reel magic, lobbing that faded ball just high enough, just far enough to let him sprint, dive, slam to the ground and thrust his glove into the air — proof of the clean catch, evidence of the miracle. Two hundred feet away, a man on the sidewalk stops, turns away from his lover, and cheers. Unfazed, the kid pops to his feet and fires a strike. I see it just in time to keep it from crashing into my ribs.
I tell him it’s time for bed. He knows. We bump our gloves, man to man, to mark the end.
This week, he learned how to pronounce “testosterone.” That’s what got Melky Cabrera, one of our favorite major league players, suspended for the rest of the season. And today, at the local minor-league ballpark, we watched Koby Clemens have probably his best game of the season. Before I could really think it through, I said, That guy’s dad is Roger Clemens, one of the best … well, he was ….
I worry about my son. I can imagine a thousand ways that baseball will break his heart. But this is his game now, his life, his love. And he is beautiful, diving headlong in the dark. Knowing I can’t see, he assures me: I got it, Dad. I got this….
Photograph by the author. New Hampshire Fisher Cats (in white), 4-2 winners against the Altoona Curve. Koby Clemens, entering the game with a batting average under .200, went 2-2 with a home run and a walk.