by Jeremiah Budin
You see this kid? He plays the game the right way. When he hits a home run he puts his head down and runs the bases. He doesn’t run too fast, or too slow. When his teammates try to give him high fives he shakes his head and puts his hands in his pockets.
When he goes after a fly ball he doesn’t dive all over the place, showboating and such. He tracks the ball off the bat and chases it down at a steady, polite pace. The ball seems to recognize that and slows in the air, usually giving him enough time to catch it at a dignified trot.
Occasionally, he makes an error, just like everybody else, but does he throw his glove and shout? No, he tears his glove into tiny pieces and eats them while humming softly.
This kid plays the game the right way.
Did you see him last week in Cincinnati? Get this. His teammate lined a double in the gap, slid headfirst into second base, sprung to his feet, and clapped his hands twice. (Jesus Christ, I hope there weren’t any children who saw that shameful display.) So, the kid was up next and naturally the pitcher buzzed a fastball at him. Hey, no worries, that’s just how the game works. Only problem was, the pitcher pulled it and the ball went behind the kid’s head. So what does he do? He leans back and allows himself to be hit right the jaw. A class act, this kid.
We are all hoping he gets out of the hospital real soon, because the games are just not the same without him.
But even in the hospital, we are getting word that the kid is playing the game the right way. When the doctors try to give him pain medication, he refuses. His jello cups, he offers to the patient in the bed next to him, and when he realizes the bed next to him is empty he throws them in the garbage even though jello is his favorite food. When they went to wire his jaw he said, “No, thanks. No fancy contraptions for me.” At least, they think that’s what he said. It’s hard to tell considering that he can’t really speak anymore.
And of course the team is missing him sorely. Not in terms of wins and losses, as they’ve actually been on quite a winning streak since he was placed on the disabled list, and, let’s face it, the kid was hitting .220 and has not exactly been a boon to the middle of the order. Has, in fact, been the cause of many killed rallies and squandered baserunners. Has dragged the team right into the gutter with his piss poor batting, some might say. But in terms of intangibles, the things he brings to the table that are, well, not tangible, you better believe they are missing him.
And oh, when he takes the field once again, what a moment it will be. To see him stride up to the plate, to hear the home crowd roar, to watch him refuse to tip his cap in acknowledgment, we will all know that we are witnessing something pure and good and true. And then to watch him strike out on three pitches and calmly shove his bat down his throat and choke until he is dead, the fans will turn to each other and say:
“You see that kid? That kid played the game the right way.”
Jeremiah Budin is a comedy writer living in New York City, just like you, probably.