I’ve been arrested and couldn’t be happier.
Sure, my fingers are covered with fingerprint ink, the camera that took my mugshot temporarily blinded me and this holding cell has an awful smell; but that’s okay because I’m proud of what I accomplished today.
Just finished chatting with one of the Constables. He just wanted to go over everything. Looks like I’ll have to pay a fine and there might be some community service. They’re letting me go, but there’s a court date pending and I promised to be there.
Don’t intend to keep the promise because I’ll be dead by then.
Got the news a couple of months ago. It’s inoperable. Just a few months left, the doctors told me. I exhibited symptoms and still do; but chose to ignore them. Not a big deal though. If life doesn’t have any pain, then you’re lucky as hell or live in a bubble.
You’d think I would be upset, but you’re wrong. I’m ready to die and quite frankly, I want to die. Human beings are toxic flesh. They really are; and I’m sick and tired of all the shit and poison I constantly encounter. Every fucking day I hear about a senseless murder or a horrific accident. Every day, venomous opinions are spewed out and God forbid if someone disagrees with you. Every fucking day, people get uglier.
I’m not a religious man; but lately, I look to the sky and ask God to free me from this wasteland. Let me sleep forever.
Clearly, he answered my prayers.
No, I didn’t make a bucket list. If you think I’m the type of person that searches for the meaning of life or adheres to some “live in the moment” bullshit, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention. I don’t need to eat, I don’t need to pray and I don’t need to love.
But….there is one thing that I’ve always wanted to do and tonight, it happened: I participated in a big league baseball game.
Baseball is my Prozac. When I sit in the bleachers and breathe everything in, I’m genuinely happy. In fact, it’s the only time I am genuinely happy. Heck, it doesn’t matter if there are obnoxious drunks nearby or my team is getting blown out. As long as I have a hot dog in one hand, a drink in the other, a scorecard in my lap and a game in front of me, all that stuff that would typically annoy me doesn’t register.
Like any child, I had that dream of playing professional baseball when I grew up. My favourite position was catcher. I loved wearing the equipment and having the challenge of figuring out what pitches should be thrown. To say I was a “student of the game” doesn’t fairly describe how obsessed I was with the sport. I even watched hitters on rival little league teams and made notes about them. Eventually, the other teams caught on and I was forced to stop. The commissioner of the league – who was also a family friend – sat me down and lectured me about my actions.
“You’re taking it too seriously,” he said. “Everyone is here to have fun.”
Screw that! I was having fun taking it seriously.
I even studied the great backstops of the game: Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Pudge, Mike Piazza, Carlton Fisk, even Pat Borders. They were my masters and I analyzed everything they did! My grades for reading, writing and arithmetic could’ve been better, but I always got straight A’s in hitting, defence and pitch calling.
Unfortunately, the dream died during my senior year of high school.
It was a beautiful afternoon in June. We made it to the city-wide final and we heard rumours about big league scouts being in attendance. This wasn’t just some championship match. It was a showcase of everything I had worked for.
The game was tied 2-2 and I was behind the plate, obviously. In the 8th inning, the enemy had a runner on second with two out. Their best hitter was at the plate and he was getting a steady diet of fastballs that were purposely avoiding the strike zone. Full of testosterone, this guy wanted to be the hero with that one big swing. But it wasn’t happening and he kept hitting foul after foul. Seeing the frustration on his face, I decided it was a perfect time to mess with him. I called for an offspeed pitch.
Yes, the pitch messed with his timing, but he did manage to make contact off the bat and sent a groundball that rolled between first and second and into right field. The right fielder picked up the ball and fired it back to me as the runner rounded third and was flying towards home. I prepared for that classic moment that only a catcher can experience: the play at the plate.
I did everything that my idols would do. I blocked the plate, caught the ball and braced for impact.
I awoke several minutes later inside an ambulance. Two paramedics and one of my coaches had to pin me down. They couldn’t understand that winning was more important than whatever was broken or bleeding. Worst of all, I had no idea what was going on.
Turned out I had a concussion, but it was incomparable to the pain I felt when I found out we lost because of me.
I did everything as I was taught. I blocked the plate and you better believe I held on to that ball. In fact, they apparently had to pry it out of my glove. Under major league rules, the runner was clearly out. But under the farce of high school rules, he was safe because I apparently committed an unsafe act by not giving him a lane. Of course, the fact he plowed me over didn’t supersede my action; so he scores the winning run, we lose the title and I lost an entire summer due to concussion symptoms.
A total load of shit.
That’s when the shine of life faded for me. The “loss of innocence,” one might argue. I became the person that’s talking to you at this moment: mostly bitter, disappointed and void of empathy.
Baseball – both watching and playing – was the only time I’d actually feel good about things. Ironic since the biggest disappointment of my life was from the high school final. But hey, that wasn’t baseball’s fault; it was the people who were running it.
I continued to play competitively into my mid-twenties. Had a good run in the Intercounty League, in fact. But eventually, a full-time job and paying bills became a higher priority; so baseball became a recreational activity. Sunday afternoon beer leagues with accountants, lawyers and engineers; always trying to one-up each other. Nothing frustrated me more than someone delaying a game so he could brag about the great deal he got on his Mercedes.
Whatever. At least I was still playing the sport.
After I found out I was dying, I calmly went over to the ballpark and processed everything as I watched the game. That’s when the idea came to me.
It wasn’t a moment or something that was said to me. I was sitting in my seat, making peace with death, while my mind went through a highlight reel of important life events. For some reason, I kept replaying the high school final. I asked myself what would’ve happened if I gave the runner that open lane. Would everything that happened after that game be different? Maybe my team would come back and win in the bottom of the ninth. Maybe I would’ve been drafted. Maybe I would have taken better care of myself. Maybe I would actually want to stay alive.
And I looked at the field and saw the poetic movements of the pitcher. I saw the outfielders dance across the vast space, risking life and limb for an out. I saw the superstar slugger captivate his audience with a majestic drive.
And I thought about Damn Yankees when Joe Boyd sells his soul to play for the Washington Senators. I thought about Field of Dreams when Archibald Graham finally gets his one at-bat. I thought of the millions of ballplayers who like me, never achieved their dream of being on a big league roster.
Suddenly, it all made sense. I had to participate and began making a plan. It took some work, research and coordination, but I was ready to have a major league moment.
If you saw me during this recent homestand, you would’ve seen me wearing jeans two sizes bigger and an extra large shirt. That was to cover the uniform I purchased and was wearing, as well as the shin guards and chest protector. You probably also missed the catcher’s mitt and mask I smuggled in.
The execution of this activity needed to follow precise timing. It had to be during the middle portion of the game when everyone is settled in and the stadium runs all kinds of distracting activities during the inning breaks.
The catcher either had to be the final out of the inning or on base when the inning concluded. That way he would need some extra time to get his gear on and therefore, a player on the bench or a coach would have to warm up the pitcher until the catcher returns to home plate. That’s where I planned to appear. I was going to run on the field in full uniform and gear and warm up the pitcher. When the regular catcher returned, I would run like hell and hopefully – and I realize this was a billion-to-one shot – evade security and police.
Was my plan crazy? Absolutely. Was it stupid? Absolutely. But seriously, who’s going to fault a guy who’ll be sleeping with worms in a few months?
So the homestand started and the opportunity to make this happen didn’t occur in the first game, nor did it come up in the second, third or fourth. Figured it would definitely present itself during the fifth or sixth game, but it didn’t. I was getting discouraged and starting to boil under all the clothing and gear. But then, at the seventh game – lucky seven, today – it happened!
So I was situated near the dugout – it’s good to have friends and a few $100 bills.
Two outs in the sixth, nobody on. The catcher hits a drive to the gap. An easy double, except he gambles and goes for a triple. It’s a close play, but he’s definitely out. Catcher’s not thrilled and takes his time walking back to the dugout, while his teammates are already warming up. Nonchalantly, I take off the coveralls, climbed over the retaining wall and made my way to home plate.
You know that moment when time slows down? You’re thinking and moving faster than anyone else? That was me on the field. Everything was moving in slow motion. The feeling was….amazing!
The grass felt so soft and the air was fresh. The sun gave just the right amount of heat. This was my Eden. This was my paradise.
The home plate umpire was busy with his little notebook and didn’t notice my presence. Neither did the pitcher – the team’s ace – who was digging out some dirt with his cleats as I crouched down and set a target.
The ace threw a scaled back fastball; probably 80 MPH. It hit my glove and gave me a high that no other drug could match. I tossed it back with a huge smile on my face. The ace caught the ball and offered a perplexed look. Then someone shouted “Who the fuck is that?” Before I could react, two security personnel tackled me.
Felt like two elephants were sitting on me. But as they put me in handcuffs and hauled me off the field, I felt zero pain. Maybe it was adrenaline or a deadman living the dream. I couldn’t help but smile.
The players, coaches and umps weren’t smiling. Neither were the two officers waiting to escort me to jail. The fans though, they understood.
Don’t even remember the car ride to the station. I think I was freaking out the cops because of the huge grin on my face.
It doesn’t matter anyway. Everything off the field is irrelevant. Today, I made it to the big leagues.
Now I shall die in peace.