Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Put me in, coach

I finished a bag of seven-state Doritos the other night.

What are seven-state Doritos, you ask? They're regular Doritos, bought in Boulder, Colorado, taken via convertible from Colorado through Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Nebraska, then on a flight back to New Jersey and then across the river into New York, where they are finished.

I still have a little more than a bag's worth of seven-state sunflower seeds. I ate quite a few yesterday, when I went down to Jersey City to play baseball with some guys from work. It's really just batting practice -- one guy pitches, another hits, and the remaining guys spread out in the outfield and catch the hit balls. One will often stand on the edge of the infield, serving as a relay for the balls caught by the outfielders and tossing them back to the mound.

It's great to get out there again in the sunshine, throwing, running, catching, hitting. I've still got a decent swing and made some good contact. The pitches, depending on who's throwing, are slower than slow, often coming in with a decided arc to them, rather than straight, flat fastballs. But I still hit some well, some line drives to left, some high fly balls deep to the outfield. I even turned on some inside pitches in a way I do not remember ever doing successfully, keeping the ball fair.

But then Ray stopped by. A Honda pulled up and out stepped a big kid. Like six feet tall, maybe 200 pounds. And in shape. Good muscles, long orange hair hanging out from under a bandana like a bushel. He looked good in the field, picking up grounders like a player does during practice. I figured he played, and one of the guys who talked to him before I did confirmed that he'd just finished his high school season.

And then he hit. This dude hit hard. With a swing from the right side like that of Manny Ramirez, he made solid contact on balls that sailed over our heads in left field. We moved back, and then back some more, far beyond the yellow pole in the left-field corner that marked the fari/foul line. If a fence has extended from that pole in an arc around the field, we would've been 50 feet beyond it, catching nothing but home runs. Left field on our field backed up to right field on an adjacent one, and at one point, those of us playing deep left field could have turned around to play a deep second base on the diamond behind us.

The best part about this good-natured kid with the sweet swing and the power in his arms? His e-mail handle: unstoppablebeast13.

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