The sun was beginning its descent over the diamond when I was called up to the pitcher’s mound, and I was not prepared.
For the first time in at least 40 years, I would slip my left hand into a leather glove, grab a baseball with my right and set out to possibly embarrass myself.
The occasion was not a pickup game, or an organized charity event, but a film shoot for a documentary I’m producing – a story that captures some of the youth baseball history of Monongahela. We needed close-up video of a man throwing and catching a ball, and I was called up to catch and throw to him from behind the camera.
Actually, it had been more like 50 years. It feels so strange to write a sentence reflecting so far back, but yes, probably 50 years, back to junior high when I played on a girls’ softball team in Finleyville. I was on the red team (or was it blue?), and my dad was the coach. We were 4-4 for the season. If memory serves, I was a better batter than fielder, and not particularly good at either. I still can picture practice drills of outfielders shifting right to back up the first baseman.
For the TV production, I wouldn’t have to run or bat, but just keep tossing the ball over the head of Dave, the photographer, and into the glove of Tom, whom we’d see on camera in close-up.
“She throws like a girl,” said Dave as I tossed the first ball – not a smart thing to say considering Dave was sitting cross-legged on the ground with the camera pointed up toward Tom. I would be tossing the ball over Dave’s head, girl-like.
Many, many tosses, it turned out. We were only 30 feet apart, so I didn’t have to throw the ball far, but I did have to catch. An underhand catch is more reliable – I remember that part from softball, but if I were to throw the ball underhand, I would in fact be throwing like a girl, and so I wound it up. I landed the toss all but a few times, and dropped the catch another few.
Back and forth the ball went. As the sun dropped lower, the glare was obscuring things, but Tom and I kept going, and Dave kept on rolling.
“I’m gonna pay for this tomorrow,” I said to myself. I’d not used that arm or that shoulder in that way for, well, five decades. At this stage in life, even those of us who stay active will get clobbered by new and strange pain the day after we move in an unfamiliar way. That shoulder was about to exact its revenge.
It was the elbow that woke me the next morning. The shoulder joined in later; lifting my arm to brush my teeth became a rigorous, aerobic activity. I had to iron a shirt with my left hand, and I’ll be paying for that later, too.
But Dave got the shot, a lovely scene of a ball landing in a glove, silhouetted against the late-summer sky. It’s a nice capture for what he and I hope will be a lovely documentary.
We’ll be filming all summer, on baseball diamonds near and far, and will show it in the fall. It will feature those pretty shots of Tom catching and tossing the ball.
You won’t see me in the film. But take my word for it. I’m a girl, but I don’t throw like one.