The game was scheduled for one, so I got to the ball park at nine. I'm a four-hour-early man which makes me almost always the first to arrive. I've found in life that nothing bad ever happens if you show up places early and every so often, something good occurs.
I got dressed in my vintage Saraperos uniform and laced up my old, black leather Riddell spikes. I ran my fingers over my name on the back of my jersey. Navidad. The name Hector gave me on the day that I met him. There's nothing like having your name on the back of a uniform. It made me proud.
I trotted out through the hallway underneath the stands and onto the green. I was alone among the grounds crew who were tending to the field, trimming the grass, sweeping the infield dirt and laying down once again the lime that marks the base paths and batters' boxes.
I jogged for a bit from foul-pole to foul-pole, and old man jiggling like, well, an old man. Then I returned to the infield and sat down right on second base, just taking the whole thing in. I've always felt--ever since I was a little kid--that there's nothing more glorious than a ball park and my vantage point confirmed this.
The air was crisp and clear. The cirrus were high and wispy and the sun was bright. The whole thing, the verdant green of the field, the azure of the sky and the silent roar of the empty stadium around me was perfection. I suppose the feeling is like what a fisherman gets when he's the first one out and his line makes the first ripples in the surf.
In a short while an assortment of fellow 'viejos' began showing up. Four fifths were younger than I, one fifth--if you can believe it, older. I sized them up like you do when you enter an alien sauna. I was intimidated by the couple of guys who seemed in shape. Relieved by the guys whose girth stretched their double-knits to bursting.
A few of us introduced ourselves. We began playing impromptu games of pepper and began loosening up, fielding, throwing, bending and pivoting. I began making the long throw from first to third. There's a chance, I said to myself, I could throw out a gimp who gets a slow start.
The clock kept ticking.
The stands began to fill in.
It was almost time for the game to begin.