by Dylan Boyko
Rejected from: Hart House Review, The Fieldstone Review, The Malahat Review
“We want more than proof of concept, gentlemen. I don’t get up at five in the morning to see a bunch of Neanderthals bearing a theoretical resemblance to a winning infield. I don’t care about the variability of a bad hop. The game is played with rules and within lines. I follow a process, and you will too. There is no art in baseball.
There is only a ball, a million different angles, and a glove. You will spend the next three years studying as many of those angles as you can. Mastering your body to the degree that your biomechanical response is one of rote consistency. I will not tell you about the smell of cut grass or the hot afternoon sun or the crack of the bat because, unless the air pressure affects the flight of the ball, or cut grass changes the spin of the ball, or that crack helps you determine the exit velocity of the ball, I do not care.
Let me make this explicit: we are in the business of winning and winning does not have time to wax poetic when every moment, every wasted motion is a derivative function of failure. Now let's go take infield and reduce the godforsaken index of my disappointment.”
Sit here and coach the kids. Instill love of the game, install a system, but do enough to transmute the work into fun – alchemy going against the scientific method. Today, only, is fire and brimstone. Soften over time. Erode.
But first, ecumenical rigidity! Dismiss the idea of one god for some unflinching dirt and confused kinetic energy.
The kid at short though. Early signs of him converting you. Real hagiographical, long hair and loopy strides circling around each ground ball. Puts that throw into first on a line so pristine you imagine drying your Sunday best. You have Eddie hit screamers at him, both sides, just to see what might happen. Funny thing about preaching the gospel of angles and matrices is that pretty soon you forget about the better angels of our nature. Science erases history. The kid gets to everything, soft hands corralling bad bounces. First base turns into a black hole, gravity pulling little white spheres, tracking everything to ancestral homes. Ball meets glove in simple symmetry. He is indomitable.
But he is human, and fallible. Take your favorite quantum mechanical quandary: the behavior of an observed and unobserved photon of light. Shoot a laser through two slits against a white background; you get a fanning pattern. The wave. Shoot the same laser at the same slits but measure, clock, track, or otherwise make the result important and our photon gets a little nervous. The wave becomes separate dots. The particle. Two results, one process.
Observe, then report.
Bottom half of nine, two away with their meat, the head of their tribe, coming up to bat. Faint guttural cries. Antsy runner at second. The air is filled with the potent aroma of ritual sacrifice, and we visiting anthropologists are nervous.
Temperature and pitch selection be damned, we are all captivated, exhilarated, and possibly bloviated. Worry slips through clasped fingers like tiny beadwork. Momentary blindness and imperfect faith. The world, in all its greatness and bounty, cannot explain the mystical final out.
Pitcher rears back, Mighty Casey of Jon the Redeemer High School excommunicates the ball up the middle – a true charge from holy hell that no mere mortal could reach. My shaggy-haired prophet hits the dirt, lifts himself off hallowed ground, and releases one final orison in a deep, dark language. The crowd kneels against steel pews. Our third base coach lights a votive candle.
Two results, one process. Try not to care if the ball hits the glove, see no evil, and hear no trumpets after the motion to first. Lie to yourself. We’d have practice Monday morning, all the same. But the chorus of the Union! Here they come, those mystic chords of memory trailing along our newest battlefield!
“Amen,” you say quickly, hushed. Hallowed or hollowed? You head out to the mound to examine that particular final out. The ball shines brightly, an altered state. Like a diamond.