Forget the Score

But Stay in Your Own Game

By Steve Carr

November can be rough in eastern Idaho, yet as I flew out of Idaho Falls and looked down on my hometown—only literally, mind you, not figuratively—it was bathed in afternoon sun, serene, greenish-brown, and innocent from fifteen thousand feet. 

The Snake River appeared lazy, slow, and harmless from up here. The baseball diamond looked lonely, anxious for a sandlot game, but instead an orgy of tumbleweeds huddled against an indifferent backstop. It wasn’t quite Norman Rockwell material but from my perspective, not bad.

On a perfect day last summer, I sat behind that indifferent backstop and watched my nephew play baseball. It could have been any youth baseball game in any American town. The parents mostly chatted while batters mostly walked, many never taking a swing, until the scorekeeper called out every fifteen minutes or so, “That’s it, you’ve batted around, new inning.”

Somewhere in the middle innings, the center fielder chose to lie down. Who could blame him? The view from his Kentucky bluegrass bed was of deep-blue skies, fat clouds, and a fiery sunset just beyond the river. Besides, there was no way a ball was coming in his direction, and he knew it. 

The coach called to him to get up. He stayed down. The coach called again and again, until finally, a compromise: the boy rose to one knee and stayed there, inspecting something interesting in the grass. I cheered him on, envying his priorities. His gumption. His lack of grass allergies.

It made me think of a summer several years earlier, when I was at odds with whatever grass or weed was in bloom. My eyes burned, my throat itched. As I hurried out the door to our co-ed ballgame, I took a gulp directly from a bottle of liquid antihistamine. I arrived in right field before the drug went to work, and then it went to work. Bam! My eyes slammed shut. I forced them open. They shut again and stayed there. Had I been a kid, I’d have lain down. Instead I snoozed upright, not moving for three outs and who knows how many hits, until the other team’s right fielder tapped me on the shoulder. 

“Tag, it’s my turn.” 

Somehow I made it back to the bench and slid down the slick green seat onto the spit- filled dugout floor until someone took me home. 

The scorekeeper brought me back from my memories to my nephew’s game.

“All tied up. Last inning.”

I watched our center fielder find his way back to the outfield. 

“Play in the grass, befriend a ladybug, find cartoon characters in the fattest clouds,” I mind-melded with the nine-year-old. I liked that kid. Something told me that when baseball was over he’d continue to find magic in the world around him, at least until some irritant—a coach, a bully, a video game, an allergy­—took him out of his game.

As much as I love summer and dread the cold, those gathering tumbleweeds and harsh north winds do spell an end to pollen. Here’s to an allergy-free winter, both literally and figuratively.

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