Last year he was the proverbial “man.” He dazzled us all, especially his father, with a .560 average and a few towering home run shots. He walked tall, with a confident swagger. The morning of the All-Star Game his father, our team’s coach said to me, “I have been dealing with some personal issues off the field and being out here has been like therapy for me.” The thought crossed my mind that baseball is more likely to cause you to seek therapy than to serve as a form of therapy, but if it was working for him in that moment, then great.
In handing out trophies for our team’s championship win, his father gushed breathlessly about his son’s accomplishments, spewing stats and stories from the season. Of course he was proud and excited, but did he not know that merely talking about success in baseball can serve to jinx a player? Like a no-hitter in progress, it is better to just pretend that it is not happening, that it happens all of the time, that it is no big deal, lest the baseball gods overhear.
Oh, how cruel the baseball gods can be. They must have been laughing hysterically last night as he struck out looking, twice. They must have heard of his confidence, his low ERA, his stellar numbers on the mound last season when he suddenly, inexplicably walked eight batters.
Maybe that is the lure of baseball. Because it is so difficult, conquering it, even in a small way becomes completely intoxicating. It seduces you into thinking that you can always repeat success on demand.
My mother is not a sports fan and especially not a baseball fan. She said to me one day, “I read a quote somewhere that said – baseball can break your heart – what do you think that means?” Oh, Mom, you don’t want to know, I thought.
In the meantime, when people ask how my son is doing, my typical response is, “he really likes playing.” That should be safe to say. I hope.