Inspired by Moth by NPR. All events are fictional.
Draft, plus fictional…
I played baseball most of my childhood but gave up it up in halfway through high school. Suddenly, standing out in the dirt for two hours on chilly Seattle springs just didn’t seem like that much fun anymore, and as my enthusiasm dropped so too did my batting average and fielding percentage. Soon, I foujnd myself in the bench, and I learned that the only thing worse than playing the infield in baseball was sitting on the bench, and it was only slightly less tedious than sitting through a trig lecture.
But in my late 20s my friend Tony approached me and asked if I would play for his softball team, since they were short a person. I was still playing organized basketball and flag football in organized rec leagues and was proving myself to be reasonably athletic, so he thought I might be a good fill-in. “Nah,” I said. “WHy not?” He asked. “Becuase standing out in the dirt for two hours is not my idea of a good time. Plus I haven’t hit a ball in like 10 years.” “Have you ever played outfield?” “No.” “Perfect. We’ll put you in the *grass* outfield — you can even smoke while you are out there — and we’ll bat you last. THe games only last an hour — piece of cake.” I thought about it. “Only an hour? You buy the beer afterwards?” “Yep,” he said.
Before I tell you waht happened, let me tell you this: I love to run sprints. Even in my 20s I was getting up early every morning, heading to the track, and running a series of 100 meter dashes to keep myself in shape. Jogging or long-distance running is like dying a slow, tedious death, but sprinting – there is magic in the feeling of a good sprint. So, when in that first game of softball, when I ran a dead sprint in the first inning to catch a long fly ball that looked like a home run, and in my first at-bat I laced a pitch over the short-stop’s head and was able to sprint to second to stretch the hit into a double, and when in-between plays I was standing in the cool grass of the outfield taking long leisurely drags of a cigarette and in-between innings I was enjoying a cold beer with some hilarious teammates – I was hooked…
But this is not a softball story, and my return to softball is not the interesting part. The interesting part of my return to softball was that unbeknownst to me, Barry Paxton, the shooting guard for the Seattle Supersonics NBA franchise, also played outfield for the team as an “outlet” from basketball. Despite his local fame (he spent the first few minutes of every game signing autographs), Barry was a good guy and very modest about his fame. In fact, he still hung out with some of his old friends, some of whom lived in Seattle with him and would join our team for after game beeers.
One of those friends, Dave, had moved to Seattle and opened up a local auto repair shop. “How is business?” I asked him over beers. “It’s good man,” he said. “It looks like it,” I said, referencing his splendid clothing. “Do that meany people get their cars fixed anymore? I always see people driving around leased hybrids or disposable Kias.” He smiled and took a drag of his cigar. He was a young man, but had a certain coolness to him, like a man who’d seen it already. “There is always a way to make money,” he said. “If you’re creative.”
To be continued and editied 🙂