Early on in my season with the Saraperos de Saltillo, Hector Quesadilla my manager seemed to have it out for me.
I had always played 3rd base, the hot corner, the esquina caliente, but Hector, after seeing me in a couple of my early games deemed me a liability in the field. I wasn't like Dick Stuart, a hard-hitting, bad-fielding first-sacker who played for the Pirates, Red Sox, Phillies and a handful of other teams in the late 50s and through most of the 60s.
Stuart hit 228 home runs in his 10 year career, including 1963 when, for the Red Sox of Boston, he slugged 42 round-trippers and led the league with 118 RBI.
So bad was Stuart's fielding that he earned two sobriquets along the way. One was Dr. Strangeglove, an homage to both Kubrick and his Swiss-cheesed leather. The second was, given my literary proclivities, my favorite. In a tribute to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, they called Stuart "The Ancient Mariner," because "he stoppeth one in three."
No, I wasn't that bad. But Hector set out to improve, polish and generally refine my glove work.
We would arrive at Estadio Francisco I. Madura early. I would change into my gear and run out to 3rd base. Hector would encamp in the grassy area before home with a bucket of beaten horsehide and his famed fungo bat. Hector, like many of his school, used his fungo bat as a magician uses his wand. He could put a ball anywhere with it, on the dime. I'd seen him dot the "i" on the Cerveza El Presidente billboard in right-center.
Hector would then proceed to kill me, hitting a grounder to my left, a grounder to my right, left left left, right right, pop up behind third, line drive left, screamer right. And so on. Rapid fire like a hockey goalie at a rifle range I was soon, despite the cool of the early morning air, sweating like a stuck javelina.
Today, of course, missiles at work fly all around us at rapid-fire speed. They seem unrelenting and directed as if they have intent to kill.
I work to handle them. To field them cleanly. To make the play.
Sometimes I'll bobble one. But most, I do ok with.
Thank you, Hector.