When we were driving to the Emergency Room, my finger wrapped in a bloody towel, I looked over at my husband. The only thing I could think of to say was: “I need to be okay for the fantasy baseball camp.”
“If you’re not, I’ll go. You can still write about it,” he replied with a smile.
Such is the power of baseball.
I am registered to play in a one-day fantasy baseball camp in a few weeks at Progressive Field (home of the Cleveland Indians). As a kid, my brother and I played baseball or whiffle ball all day and watched the Indians every night on TV. There was a time when I dreamed of playing for the Cleveland Indians when I grew up. I was about nine or ten. I still remember the moment of realization that there were no women on the team and the moment I realized there were no women in baseball anywhere. At least none that I could see. For about a summer (an eternity in kid years), I dreamed of being the first women to play major league baseball. There weren’t many opportunities to practice. I had already noticed there weren’t a lot of girls playing baseball and had already had my first encounter with someone who thought girls couldn’t play hardball.
One day, down at the old Coventry School, my brother and I were playing. He was pitching; I was batting. Two boys were didn’t know came up to us and went into the “girls can’t play baseball” spiel. I can still remember what they looked like. One was white, maybe 11, sandy blond hair. The other was black, a skinny little guy, maybe nine. The smaller one, especially, was convinced girls couldn’t, shouldn’t play. To my brother’s credit, he threw me a beautiful pitch, right down the middle, and I smacked it clear to the other end of the playground, so far that the mean boys could only stand there in shock. However, that one little moment of triumph can only carry a kid so far.
My brother played in the local Tris Speaker League (kind of like Little League). I toyed with the idea of playing too. I asked him if there were any girls who played. He said there were a few but added: “But you have to be really good.” He never said that he thought I couldn’t play. I said it to myself. Years later, when I took up baseball again as adult (I play in a wood bat pick-up league on Sunday nights), my brother said, “You were really good.” Such is life.
I was too scared as a nine or ten-year-old to play in a league. As I’ve gotten older, the fear has gone away, replaced with the knowledge that I know and love this game. I’m not a great player. I’m not terrible either. I’m an average recreational ballplayer. What makes me stick out is my gender, not my skill level.
What made me sign up for a one-day fantasy camp? Because it’s a chance to play two games on a major league field, in uniform, with a bunch of other people on whom baseball has the same hold. Because it will be fun. I’ll be writing about the experience for ESPN.com’s SweetSpot blog and at ItsPronouncedLajaway.com, so I get to combine two of my favorite things, baseball and writing, into the same participatory journalism experience.
For a while there, I thought the stitches were going to delay my little dream. I had sliced open the ring finger on my right hand, picking up a metal/chrome pasta maker to clean it. Who knew there was a sharp little edge on the inside of the base? It cut me right on the crease at the top of the finger. Three little stitches and a big gauze pad that made it appear I was flipping The Bird to everyone I encountered.
I can’t quite imagine being a professional athlete, making a living with my body and yet knowing that I could derail everything through a simple kitchen accident (or playing on a trampoline with my kid). Our bodies have limitless possibilities, yet there are also limitless ways in which we can hurt ourselves. We’re so strong and so fragile. Lucky for us, we can heal, and we can continue to dream.