The team gave me the duffle when I was handed my home and away uniforms, right before my first game in the Mexican League. Things were simpler back then, and we didn't need a big rolling bag to carry our stuff. Just a small team duffle.
I dropped the balls and my old Brooks Robinson Rawlings into the duffle and headed again out to Central Park. The day was glorious, in the high-50s when I arrived at "New York's backyard," and in the low 60s when I left two hours later.
The sky was a light blue, cloudless except for a few cirrus ringing the horizon. The buds were dappled. Light green, and there were white, pink and red blooms from the flowering trees. The forsythia were out, too. As was every kid under the age of three in all five boroughs.
I found some Yorkville Little League kids once again at field three, in the south east corner of the great lawn. In high school, I played a lot of games on that field. A junkie tried to sell me drugs when I was playing left field one time, and I still remember the ruts from park vehicles that rode over the outfield grass and were cemented in the frozen mud.
Today, of course, the fields are as well-manicured as Yankee Stadium. Nearly everything in white-person-Manhattan is. You'd hate to cost someone in a $47 million co-op his view.
The teenagers and I tossed the ball back and forth. They were throwing with alacrity, I was still just lobbing, not bringing my arm down with any velocity, not breaking my wrist and snapping one. After about 30 minutes I judged my right wing sufficiently loose. Or as loose as it was going to be and I motioned one of the kids I was playing with back another 15 yards or so. I had measured the distance between third--my position--and first in my mind.
I winged the ball over to him, putting some 57-year-old velocity on it. He held his glove chest high and fielded the strike.
"That's it for me," I said after he caught the ball. "I'm an old man and I've had enough."
|"Two Ton" Tony Galento, 1910-1979, had a record in the ring of 80 wins against 26 losses. |
He also had a starring role in Elia Kazan's "On the Waterfront."
My arm felt like Two Ton Tony Galento had had his way with it. It felt like it was wrenched backward with malice.
"Keep the ball," I said to the kid.
I picked up my Saraperos duffle and put my glove inside.
I had made the throw I needed to make.
I was as ready for the Juegos de Viejos as I would get.