Memories at a Baseball Game by Logan Hilbert

The bright lights emanating from Citi Field on Roosevelt Avenue contrast starkly with the darkening night sky, hiding all stars from sight. I can’t remember the last time that I saw stars. The Cassiopeia constellation is up there somewhere. I just can’t see it. I sigh and look dejectedly down at the reddish-brown cobblestones under my feet and begin to count them one-by-one as I approach the stadium.

At forty-nine, I allow myself to finally look up. A rotunda with bowed, dark-tinted windows and curved archway entrances comes into view. Skinny trees with pendulous branches stand on both sides of the numerous entryways, an attempt to blend nature with architectural modernity. Hordes of fanatic people weave their way around me, a blur of orange and blue. “Did you hear it is free t-shirt night tonight?” the gruff voice of a plump woman (with a considerable amount of barbeque sauce in the corner of her mouth) asks. I nod in return, guessing that my neutral colored outfit wasn’t festive enough for the occasion.

The speakers above the entrances abruptly change from a booming pop song to orchestral brass instruments playing the “Star-Spangled Banner:” The game is beginning. I clutch my ticket and get in line to be checked in by security.

I’m in seat 12 in section 515, row 14: the promenade. A perfect view of home plate. As I sit, a lanky Met fan to the left of me waves his foam finger in my face and screams what he calls “a warrior’s introduction” into my ear. I glance over to my right and see a fat elderly man clutching a bottle of beer. He raises his bushy eyebrows at me and pulls his Yankees cap lower on his forehead. I want to ask if he won the ticket to see the Mets play the Phillies from a radio station and couldn’t find anyone else to give it to, but I remain silent. My eyes scan over the stout figures with brown mitts in the freshly-mowed infield before me. I am lost in my mind—re-visiting memories better left in their graveyard.

My bare toes wriggle in the cool emerald grass during a late summer Sunday evening. I grip the bat and lean into my leg farthest from the pitcher. The right-handed-side-of-the-mat positioning feels unnatural. I hate hitting right.

The pitcher, whose eyes look a little too much like mine, squints at me. “Logan, I told you to move your hands farther apart so you’d have a stronger swing.” He shakes his head, drops the ball and his mitt, and walks toward me.

“I know what you said. It just feels awkward, Dad” I whine. My dad’s hands, calloused and greasy from working on cars, wrap around mine and wrench my hands apart on the metal bat. He pushes my elbow up in the air and gives me a look that warns me against moving.

“Now, watch the ball and swing as hard as you can. Send it over the row of hay bales.” I look at the hay bales in the distance, seeing only the pretty purple wildflowers sprouting up around the bales and wishing I could pick them.

He hustles back to his pitcher mound, a heap of dried hay, and plucks up the ball and slides his mitt back on his hand. Turning to the side, my dad hinges back and hurls the baseball toward me so fast the red and white appear to blend to create pink. I swing the bat halfway and skim the ball as it zooms behind me. Shrugging, I drop the bat and run to the wild mushroom that is supposed be first base and jump up and down on it in victory.

After retrieving the ball from behind the electric fence that kept the cows in, my dad walked over to me, laughing. “Good job, kid. At least you hit it.” He rubs his knuckles in my head, and I laugh, too, even though his hand hurts.

We switch from hitting the ball to playing just a simple game of catch. The sinking sun positions itself behind my dad’s head and disappears behind the hill speckled with the row of hay bales. A cool breeze blows my short blond hair and ripples through my Hannah Montana shirt, making me shiver. Dad picks me up and starts carrying me through my grandparents’ field which we pretended was our baseball stadium. I furrow my head into his chest and allow the chemicals that spilled on his shirt during work burn my nose.

“Logan,” Dad suddenly clears his throat and holds me out to look at him. “I have something to tell you.”

I stare into his eyes and remain silent.

“Telina is moving into my house with me. She’s . . . pregnant with my son, your half-brother. I’m going to try to keep coming to see you at your grandparents, but this is my family now. It’s my chance to do this right. He needs most of my attention. I don’t want to fuck up another kid like I did you. You understand, right?”

“Okay,” I say blankly. My dad’s smile reaches his eyes.

When we reach the house, Dad puts me on my feet, and I run to sit on our rickety porch steps. Dad shoves his bag of baseball equipment onto the far side of the seat and then steps up into his brown and beige Ford pick-up. The engine purrs to live, and my dad turns around to head down the driveway. I stare at his silhouette made in the cab by his head lights as he reaches his arm out the window in what I assume is a goodbye. Instead, he tosses something small and white out the window into a wintergreen boxwood bush and speeds away. After tediously looking, I find the object and rub my hand over the familiar smooth, leathery object and bring it into the light: I am holding his baseball.

I watch my feet as I walk one last lap around the stadium, taking special care to count the ugly gray slabs of concrete covered in dropped popcorn, candy, and breadcrumbs. I don’t even remember who won the game. The Mets, possibly? I pass a father carrying his sleeping daughter toward the exit, and he smiles at me, possibly wondering where my family is. I turn toward a metal railing which looks out over the whole field; the players are gone, so therefore most of the fans have left the stadium. There is something surreal yet haunting about being one of few people in a room that was meant to hold thousands.

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