30 Pixie dust on the diamond

The brand new regulation hardball screamed up the tangential alley, the amorphous line, really a feeling, which separated third base’s purview from shortstop’s. Juancho de la Vega, the Good Hustle Ninja, had the jump on the murderous one-hopper off Chuck Rheindollar’s bat, the most feared of hitters in the San Anselmo Little League. Good Hustle knew it was impossible to trap in his glove, but if he didn’t make an attempt, the ball would be tearing too far to the right of the shortstop, who played Rheindollar deep. It would be a base hit, maybe even a double bouncing to the fence through center-left no man’s land in the outfield. It would have been scored a base hit without dispute: the shortstop was playing far back on the dirt, as instructed by screams from the dugout. Everyone in the stands who knew Rheindollar’s power would salute the judiciousness, calling it “smart baseball.” Any student of the human condition would consider the shortstop’s few steps back, almost to the beginning of the outfield, just healthy fear in an eleven year old.
But in the disguise of Juancho de la Vega, the Good Hustle Ninja had something to prove. He did not “move back!” And when the ball hissed, a kiss-it-goodbye velocity, Juancho acted – all baseball. He couldn’t field it but he could try to stab it low off the deep infield hop. It was about hustling to make something happen, rather than watch it fire by for a base hit! Juancho lunged with the full instinctive intention (in athletics, not an oxymoron) of maintaining his balance. His left hand extended completely but toward the ground, so that he seemed to teeter for a moment, at fullest extension possible without stumbling or somersaulting. It was impossible to reach far enough to catch the ball in the pocket, but the fingers of his glove allowed de la Vega to stunt the ball’s searing trajectory. If consciousness beyond instinct were involved, it could be said he slapped the ball to the ground, but this was not so deliberate. It merely was about force meeting force, pliant leather glove guided by shoulder, arm and hand and core, against the round leather-encased ball, smaller than a fist, hard as a rock.
Good Hustle became reflexive about location. Any further use of the glove was eschewed as a hindrance, although it had heretofore served almost miraculously. His sense of where the ball was and something deeper than talent and competitive instinct which moved him to grab the ball with his bare hand, chopped off split seconds measured against Rheindollar’s charge to first base from the moment he dropped the bat. The textbook scoop and throw while facing the target had to be jettisoned, because Rheindollar, not only the tallest and most powerful boy in the league, was its fleetest. The ball was snatched with his bare right hand; from its intertia among blades of live grass, the ball was in Juancho de la Vega’s grasp. He pivoted promiscuously in order to unleash every precious bit of his own power, although he looked tight as a hinge. But the promiscuity of force, its full expense, and de la Vega’s feel for the game, meant the ball was hurled without restraint, with every bit of his strength and more – his instinct – at the yearning form directly opposite within the diamond infield. Outstretched toe just touching the bag, trembling leg, perfectly arced torso, and a taut line of shoulder, arm, and mitt waited for the shot to make its mark. The first baseman within the form hoped for its accuracy while others might have surreptitiously ducked, knowing how hot the arm was from the Hot Corner, third base. Luckily for the team, the first baseman was one of those twelve year old “great athletes” and fearless, and the ball was fairly caught just before Rheindollar’s toe met the sack.
Naturally, encomia poured fourth; first of all (without anything but a disinterested nod to coincidence about the pun) from the utterly brave first baseman. He leaped for joy.
The other tributes from teammates can be imagined, and while the manager simply beamed, the assistant coach said, in a very confidential tone, eye to eye with young de la Vega, “Hey, little ______ _____________.” He had named a famous professional baseball player, a Most Valuable Player, and that year’s All Star Game captain for the American League. There were no penalties levied for undue celebration. The spectacular play had retired the side, ending the game.
Juancho de la Vega, like Rheindollar just twelve, would have liked to celebrate continuously. The moment of the single and singular motion of pivoting and pegging the ball for the out had been dreamlike. But as the Good Hustle Ninja in the employ of Ross Valley, here was an opportunity to fortify his disguise.
More joy and froth: the team sponsor was buying Popsicles at the snack shack for everyone on the team. The thrill of victory was no cliche at the moment. Certainly, there was room for more hubbub and explication. “I thought that was going for a double. There was so much heat coming off Rheindollar’s bat.”
“Yes,” the Good Hustle Ninja humbly responded. Alluding to his back-story as an immigrant from Mexico, Good Hustle continued, “A very lucky play. In my country, we love to play baseball, just like in this country. But it is a very poor country. When I lef’, still there are problems. But here, in America . . .”
San Anselmo, which part had seats and standing room at Memorial Field, listened.
” . . . to play on the fields here. . . . The fields are like velvet.”


3 Responses to “30 Pixie dust on the diamond”

  1. RA Says:

    Wow, erotica and baseball…loved it, the “promiscuity”, “tight as a hinge”, what skillful, beautiful writing.
    Flyswatter rules, Billie Bean would be proud as punch.

    (I got my rejection letter, sigh),

    The beat goes on, RA

  2. Peter Smith Says:

    This is wonderful! I hadn’t checked in to Coolshake for a couple of days, and now, well now, I can tell you quite frankly, maybe I won’t have to jump off the bridge after all.

  3. MOD Says:

    Some of the best sports writing is in this post. Enuf said.

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