|I quickly realized I was no Sandy Koufax.|
My almost-brand-new quilted jacket was ripped and dirty. My hands were bloodied, my hip was sorely bruised and my right arm was painfully wrenched.
Now, as I said, it's three months later and while my jacket is patched and my hip is well, my arm is still hurting. In fact, even something simple like opening my dresser drawers is painful, as is holding onto the straps on either a subway car or a bus.
My assorted pains, painful as they are, I have to admit wash over me with a sense of warm, rosy nostalgia. They bring me back to my one short season in the Mexican Baseball League in 1975.
While I primarily manned the hot corner, el esquina caliente, for one lost game, late in the season, my strong right wing was called upon to close out the last two innings of a 22-4 blowout.
I had pitched a bit in high school, mostly filling in when our regular arms were sore or tired, and I'd often horse around while on the Saraperos and toss batting practice. But pitching seriously in a game that mattered--or was at least close to mattering--was something that eluded me.
I entered the game, down 13-2, with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation. Though this was merely mop-up duty, the team was using me to spare using a real arm in what was deemed a lost cause, I was scared I'd have the crap knocked out of me.
That said, I was hopeful, too. For whatever reason, I fantasized that my modest assortment of fastballs and a half-way wily slider would somehow have become elevated through the years to professional grade. Against all logic and common sense, I was hoping that due to some intervention of divine power that I had magically become the next Sandy Koufax, the ultimate baseball hero to every Jew who's ever laced up a pair of spikes.
I quickly realized I was no Sandy Koufax. I might not even have been Mandy Koufax, Sandy's little sister.
It's lonely on a pitcher's mound when you're 17, in a foreign land where you scarcely speak the lingo and you're surrounded by seven or eight thousand relatively hostile and drunk fans, if that's not being redundant.
I promptly plunked the first batter I faced in the ribs, my mediocre fastball running in on him. The second batter fairly tore the cover off my best slider. He was in at second standing up while base-runner number one scored on a play at the plate. Quickly I was down by another run.
The rest passes in a blur. I don't remember who I faced and what I threw. I do remember, perhaps the opposition got winded from running the bases, that somehow I got out of the inning without giving up more than an additional 20 or 30 runs.
Though I had been asked to garner the final six outs of the contest, after my inning's debacle, my manager, Hector Quesadilla, mercifully yanked me out of the game. My right arm after my one inning's work throbbed like a porn flick.
I think my line for the day was like this:
IP BB HBP H R ER K ERA
1 0 2 8 8 6 1 54.00
What I learned back then is something I am living today as I try to make a life as a moderately well-paid freelancer.
Every once in a while you're called upon to step and take center stage. You're not always ready for the job, you can't always perform as you're asked. But nevertheless, you go out, rub some dirt on your pants and do as well as you can.
My arm hurts just thinking about it.