Wednesday, August 28, 2013
On a recent Saturday I sat under a tree in foul territory of a softball diamond in Central Park. I was on the third base side. I had managed to find a comfortable position sitting back against the tree, not easy to do among the exposed roots. I had been walking all day. I had taken the J train into Manhattan and got off at Essex Street. From there I walked east to the river, up the promenade to 23rd Street, over to 1st Avenue, up to 47th Street, then straight across town to 12th Avenue, over to 11th, then up to the Lincoln Center Atrium for a bathroom break, continuing up Central Park West and into the park somewhere in the 80's, then over to the north side of the Great Lawn, where a game was in progress.
I hadn't made any plans to watch a game that day, let alone at this specific field. But right away I saw that one of the teams looked familiar. I had seen them play on the same field the week before. They were part of a coed recreational league. Actually it wasn't so much the team I recognized as one particular player. She wore a sleeveless dark blue jersey, tight gray pants, and knee-high socks the same blue as the shirt. Her blonde hair was tied back in short pigtails under her Minnesota Twins cap. I remembered her vaguely from the week before, but now I really paid attention. Her team's bench was on my side of the field, and when they were batting and she was standing around with her teammates, I was just able to see her face clearly enough to tell she was pretty. She reminded me a little of a girl I dated in high school. She smiled a lot. It was clear she was having a good time.
It was also clear she was a serious athlete. When she stepped into the batter's box, she had, unlike many other players on the field, the presence of a veteran. She set her feet wide apart, and before every pitch she had a way of popping into her stance with a kind of controlled spasm or shudder in the arms and shoulders, dipping down and raising her bat. It's the kind of movement so singular it's impossible to describe or imitate. Also hard to describe is the powerful effect it had on me. The upshot was that I had to write about it. At some point I heard one of her teammates call her name and I'm pretty sure what I heard was "Trish", which sounded exactly right. I took out my notebook and tried to figure out how to describe her batting stance, her clothes, her face, and my experience of watching her.
I watched the end of the game and the whole of the next one, as it turned out to be a doubleheader, at least for Trish's team. They faced a different opponent in the second game, which they won. Apparently it was the championship game. They hoisted a big trophy and congratulated each other.
As I watched them celebrate, gather their equipment, and prepare to leave the field, I thought about how I would probably never see Trish again. I knew there was no way I could talk to her. She was a woman in uniform, after all. Too intimidating. I would likely never have another opportunity. Of course, I never would have thought I would run into her by accident on two consecutive Saturdays, so I suppose anything's possible.