Being the industrious family that we are, both my son Bob and I were on the job Monday — Memorial Day, in case you’d forgotten — while most of America was busy having the day off, going to barbecues, etc.
To be fair, I know a lot of you took time to remember those who have given their lives in service to our country; thank you for that.
Anyway, Bob and I broke up our work day by straying out to the DH parking lot to play a bit of catch in the early evening’s gloaming; I always keep a few gloves in my desk for just such an occasion.
For those of you who can visualize the newspaper’s lot, Bob was positioned roughly even with the front door, and I was at the north edge of the lot.
Usually when I play catch on asphalt, I use a rubber-coated baseball — a common sporting good in the 1970s but hard to find nowadays (I have about eight of them; pick them up when I stumble onto to them at Goodwill and the like).
However, on Monday I stuffed the rubber-coated ball into my shorts pocket and for some reason commenced throwing with Bob using a regular baseball.
“It’s fine,” Bob said. “It’s not wet out.”
“I’m more worried about scuffing it up,” I said.
About a dozen throws later, Bob left one short and to my right. As the ball approached, I figured I’d just make the relatively easy short-hop play as I have about a million times before, only for reasons I can’t explain, the ball didn’t nestle in my glove but rather glanced off it, then proceeded to roll into Sixth Street at a medium-slow pace.
I looked up and realized it was heading toward the fenced car dealership across the road — maybe it was going to roll under the wide gate, or maybe it was going to hit the gate’s wheel. It was going to be close. Either way, I decided not to give chase; didn’t think I could catch up with the ball, and I suppose racing blindly into the street didn’t seem a fantastic idea either.
My heart then sank as I watched the baseball miss, by about 2 inches, the wheel and roll about 30 feet into the car lot.
I looked back at Bob.
“Nice hustle,” he said.
“I don’t think I could’ve gotten that,” I said. “I will admit, though, I decided very early not to run after it.”
“You gave up on the play very quickly,” he said, adding, “it wasn’t a great throw, but that’s a play you make at least 80 percent of the time.”
I wasn’t really sure if that was a compliment or an attempt to deflect blame, so I just agreed: “I do make that play most of the time.”
Anyway, we stood on the sidewalk and contemplated our options, of which there basically seemed to be one: Forget about the ball. The chain-link fence was topped with three strands of barbed wire.
But I just can’t stand to lose a baseball, even though I have probably 40 of them. It just has always rubbed me the wrong way, dating to when I was a little kid and we maybe only had one ball to use — and then it would end up in our stupid juniper bushes and whatever game we were playing would be over, and we’d be left with scratched-up and itchy arms from the fruitless search.
“Maybe I can climb the fence,” I said.
“This sounds like a really stupid idea,” Bob said, reprising his role as skeptic from the guard-dog incident of roughly a year earlier.
Ignoring him, I got halfway up the fence … but then, assessing the really sharp wire, the fact I was wearing shorts, and noting that my surgically repaired arm isn’t fully functional yet, decided that attempting to go over the wall would likely result in about 40 stitches.
“All right, let’s forget about it; maybe I can get it tomorrow,” I said (I didn’t; it rained all night, likely ruining it, so I just skipped it.). “Here, let’s throw a few more with the rubber-coated ball.”
As we walked back to our former positions, I tossed it to Bob, who promptly airmailed it over my head on the return throw.
“Bob!” I said, jumping up in a vain attempt to glove the thing, then turning and watching in semi-horror as it too made its way toward the car lot.
We caught a break this time, though, when it bounced up at the last minute and hit the lower lip of the gate.
“Nice throw,” I said.
“Sorry,” he said. “I thought I heard a text come in just as I released it, and it distracted me.”
I was sort of speechless to that. I mean, I communicate via text all the time, but not while involved in sports.
Made me wonder: How far are we from some young major league player blaming an error on the iPhone in his pocket?