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A League of My Own

Had a weird little moment today.

I was taking a walk this afternoon, and I passed by a baseball field where a Little League team was practicing.  Kids, probably eight or ten years old, were shagging fly balls, fielding grounders, and turning double plays against imaginary runners.  I sat down on the end of the bleachers and watched for a bit, and at one point, a ball rolled over in my direction.

I picked it up, one of the coaches saw me, raised his glove, and I threw him the ball.

Right then, I had this little flash in my head.  I knew, I just knew the coach was going to catch the ball, look at it in his glove, then slowly raise his eyes to look at me.

"You got a good arm, kid," he'd say.  "Show me that again."

I'd pick up another ball, and fire it to him.  By now, the whole team would have stopped practicing to watch me.

"Yeah," the coach, a burned-out, middle-aged guy whose marriage was on the rocks, would say.  "A real good arm.  We could use a guy like you."

And I'd join the Little League team.  I'd be their star pitcher, the kid (well, 29 year-old) with the amazing arm but no control.  But the coach could spot hidden talent, and even though he sometimes wondered why he bothered with this team, he knew deep down he could make us winners.

See, the rest of the team would have problems, too.  Wacky ones!  The centerfielder, a round kid nicknamed "Chubs", would stand in the outfield with a glove in one hand and sandwich in the other!  Can you believe it?  The second baseman, Danny, was afraid of ground balls!  There would be a kid with a great swing, Darryl, but (get this) he would always close his eyes during the pitch, so he wasn't hitting anything.  The brains of the team, nicknamed "Einstein", was skinny and wimpy and wore thick glasses, and he was always on about the physics of baseball, calculating trajectories and angles and insisting he could teach everyone to hit better through science (but we never listened to his advice, natch).  The twins, Craig and Greg, were indistinguishable, and the coach was always getting them mixed up!  That was about all they did.  And there was the stuck-up rich boy, who had an immaculate, specially tailored uniform.  He refused to ever slide into a base, for fear of getting dirty, and often could be seen talking into a cell phone!  And there would be one tiny kid, perhaps named "Pip", who was meek and timid and scared of his own shadow.

Of course, there was a girl on the team as well, but everyone was skeptical about her, since she was a girl.

Oh, such a rag-tag team of misfits!  The coach had his work cut out for him!

And everything was building up for the big game, the last game of the season against the best team in the league, comprised of much bigger ten year-olds.  Big mean ones who mocked us at every opportunity.  We hated them.

As a team, we'd get better.  During a montage set to popular music, we'd see Chubs comically trying to get in shape, doing awkward calisthenics and standing in the outfield, a stick of celery in place of his sandwich, doubtfully nibbling it and making faces.  Danny would be cured of his fear of grounders, probably by being tied to something and having tennis balls hit at him until he overcame his fear.  Daryl would learn how to keep his eyes open at the plate, perhaps by having his eyelids held open with tape (or perhaps something less brutal).  Everyone would finally listen to Einstein, and he'd lecture us in front of a chalkboard covered with formulas and problems and diagrams, and wouldn't you know it, everyone's hitting would improve!  Einstein would nod in satisfaction and pat his calculator.  The twins would be given big name tags, so the coach could tell them apart.  That's about all that would happen with them.  The stuck-up rich kid would have his cell phone stomped on by someone, but he'd pull out a back-up cell phone, and we'd all throw our hands up in exasperation.  The girl on the team would make some dynamite plays, while the boys watched in awe and gradually began to accept her (possibly someone would get a crush on her, though not me, because that would be disgusting).  Little Pip, sadly, would not improve his game or become more assertive, despite our best efforts.  And the coach would start to patch up his marriage.

Still, the big game would not go well, as everyone fell back into their old, bad habits.  The coach would have had a big fight with his wife the night before, and he'd snap angrily at us.  We'd get pounded, at least until the ninth inning, when the coach would spot his wife in the stands, because she had forgiven him and had come to watch the game.  Coach would then give us a big, touching speech, and then we'd go out and kick some butt.  Chubs would run out a deep fly ball, the rich kid would slide to score an important run, Einstein would calculate the odds of the next pitch being a changeup, and hit for a double, and Pip would come in to score, barreling (in slow-motion) into the opposing catcher, a kid twice his size, who was blocking the plate and who would drop the ball.

And I would somehow find a way to strike out their best batter, leading our team to victory.  The fat kid would do a funny dance.  The girl on the team might kiss one of the boys on the cheek, the one who had a crush on her, and he'd fall over in a faint.  The coach would hug his wife and spin her around.  The twins would high-five each other.  That's about all they would do.  And we'd try to carry the coach on our shoulders, falling in a big comical pile, which would freeze-frame.

Well.  None of that happened.  When I threw the ball to the coach, the throw was short and wide, and he had to kind of run to the side and catch it on the third bounce.

It's just as well.  The sequel would have sucked anyway.