There he is…lumbering his aging muscles up the steps. Moving one foot in front of the other in a motion that would suggest all his ligaments were now frozen in time. His small, disproportioned beady eyes shift from left to right and then downward at the dirt. He briefly lifts his head just enough to glance at the bullpen in the distance. Oh, that head. That enormous head. He taps his left forearm with two fingers and continues to maneuver his collection of rickety bones all the way to the mound. Scuffling dirt all over the field and grazing the tips of the grass with each step, while struggling to move each foot higher than an eighth of an inch. A not so vague resemblance to Frankenstein running from the villagers. He finally reaches the pitcher’s mound. His massive skull still facing downward, while he reaches his giant, sausage-linked hand out in preparation for the dropping baseball. Once the ball is plopped down into his meaty hand, he reaches around the pitcher with his other oak tree of an arm and pats him on the behind. He then finally raises his head, that huge orb like sphere, while breathing in the night teaming with energy. The thousands in the stands now cheering as they give the exiting pitcher a small, but well-deserved round of applause.
An egg-shaped umpire who has wobbled up to write in the official change greets him on the mound. The catcher and third baseman have also joined the expanding group, and a young, energetic relief pitcher jogs his way to meet them as if a fashionably late member to a party in his honor. The colossal head of our hero turns to the new pitcher and hands him the ball. His small eyes make contact as he mumbles instructions and expectations for the looming hitter. As he starts the short trek back to the concrete walls of his open office, the catcher and third baseman also jog back to their respective positions.
One foot, two foot, the knees aching for the millionth time as he trudges past the white line and begins to hobble towards the dugout. His uniform not fitting like it once did, with odd mounds and points protruding from places that weaken with age. His large, monster-esque hands squeeze the railing tight, so as to assist the cast-ridden tango he dances down the steps. Writing a note and mumbling a few words to the pitching coach, he sits back down on the bench and depending on the camera angle either watches his reliever warm, or falls asleep. He lifts one leg over the other to complete his position of choice, which dumbfounds those who base his physical ability on his walk.
He rests the round Cadillac under his orange and black cap against the back of the dugout. Now comfortable and seemingly in silent mode, wearing a well-trimmed goatee that was once a moustache looked to be handed down by the Gods. His oft-stoic expression is familiar to me. One I enjoyed a front row seat to for season after season, in sickness and in health. Those days saw him outlined by different colors and resisted by less wind. While with us the stoic expression fell through a dark circle of vacancy finally falling on the ground floor of disinterest. He didn’t take his departure lightly, yet he did take it swiftly. His exit was nothing short of an imprisoned soldier escaping to freedom, lifting his arms in the air and thanking the heavens he was alive. I, like many others, never wanted him to leave. We never asked for him to go, and when the offer given and the gate opened we all felt a drip of sadness hit our hearts. We swelled with pride knowing he deserved better and would do right by them as he’d always done us. We had no idea that success would breed so quickly and consistently, like rabbits left to their own devices.
There he is…looking out at a young, eager relief pitcher who’s own well-planned facial hair has become a staple of the time. His accolades and awards have always been offered, accepted and then brushed off as if common place and expected. The admiration seen on the faces of those who cheer and those who listen. The achievements earned.
The reliever throws strike one. His giant head lifts off the back wall.
He’s in familiar territory and he knows it, but does he ever think about us?
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