Monday, April 5, 2010

Fear of Balls

My dad is a very athletic guy. Today at 61 years old he still cycles miles a day and exercises so much that I have to take a Xanax just thinking about it.

He stands tall at six foot one, and to me at 7 years old with most of my baby teeth, he seemed like a gargantuan freak of nature. At that time, I could never imagine being that far off the ground. If you were to fall, I thought, you would have to alert the public below you, so as to avoid casualties. It was fun growing up with a guy like that, because he was great at teaching me basketball, throwing the football around, and he signed me up for little league baseball. However, 'baseballs' are as hard as rocks. The major leagues are riddled with stories of grown, gargantuan men like my father, being taken down by these tiny terrors. One man was even BLINDED by a baseball. So, to me as a kid, if someone asked me "Hey, do you want to play this fun game called baseball? Oh by the way, there's a small chance you'll be BLINDED by it." I would've said, "No way." But my parents talked me into it. Even my mom felt strongly about it, "Ay, come on Michael. Iss fun. All da kids is playing this baseball. In Ecuador, we used to play a game called El Cuchillo en la cama, that means The Knife in the Bed. Much more dangerous than the baseballs but vedy, vedy fun".

I was on the Super Bagels team, named after the illustrious breakfast venue on Elmora Avenue. My nickname given by my teammates was Stupid Bagel, a reference to my haircut and my Jewish heritage. Little Nazi bastards. I was in the level of little league where the coaches were the pitchers. This made me happy, because it eliminated the risk of some crazy kid aiming for my precious eyes.

But one day, we were facing the Cost Cutters (a way better name than Super Bagels) and their coach, Mr. Davis had a pretty bad drinking problem. Mr. Davis started drinking very early in the morning. I know this because our game started at 10 am, and he was already wasted. None of the parents had any issue with the intoxicated coach, because he was a Vietnam veteran. Apparently, serving our country means you can drink around children. I was third in the batting order, and after watching the two kids before me, I was petrified. Mr. Davis was wobbling all over the mound, mumbling things like 'dumb bitch' and 'take cover'. He wore sunglasses so no one could see where he was throwing. And before each pitch he would shout, "Fire in the hole!" and launch the ball with frightening speed.

I put on my over-sized helmet and stood in place. Mr. Davis was very still now, except for his shoulders moving up and down. Was he crying? Yes he was. There was a moment of silence before, "FIRE IN THE HOLE!!!!" Mr. Davis threw so hard his sunglasses flew off his face. The ball was aimed straight at my stunned eyes. 'This is the last thing I'll ever see', I thought, 'This drunk, weeping gorilla hurling his Budweiser grenade at me'. Luckily, he aimed too low and hit me in my mouth. Before I could realize what happened, I was being cradled in Mr. Davis' arms.

"Oh, Daniel. Are you alright buddy?"
I spit some blood and teeth out of my mouth before responding.
"Yeah, I'm okay. But my name is Michael."
"Oh Daniel, I'm so glad you're alive buddy. I'm just so glad."

It sucked getting hit in the kisser like that. But on the plus side, I helped a guy get over a traumatic experience, and I finally lost some of my baby teeth.

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