The Warm Summer Evenings

This article is more than 13 years old.

This week, temporarily at least, we are into the season of warm evenings, which is probably why I found myself remembering something that happened on a warm evening last spring.

Some of the guys with whom I played fast-pitch softball for twenty years or so had decided that it would be fun to surprise the current members of the team by showing up to cheer for them. Accordingly, we agreed to meet at the field in Cambridge at game time on a Wednesday night.

I arrived early, just as I'd usually done when I was a player. I'd always liked to stretch at my leisure, loosening up first one hamstring, then the other. I'd liked playing catch before the game, and fielding ground balls, and playing pepper. Maybe I'd especially liked all that during my last five or six years with the team, since by then I was almost always a designated hitter, rarely playing in the field unless we were short a player.

So perhaps out of habit, I arrived early.

And they were short a player. A guy who'd been very young when we'd been teammates and was still young enough to run down a ball hit over his head ran right over to me.

"Can you play?" he asked.

Not "Hey, great to see you." Not, "It's been a while. How've you been?" Just, "Can you play?"

As it happened, I was wearing sneakers. I didn't have a glove with me, of course, but there are veterans of the Cambridge fast pitch league who'd have been surprised to learn that I ever had a glove. I probably couldn't have found my glove on a bet.

I could have found my bats. They're in a bat bag on the shelf beside the washing machine in my basement, just in case I wake up some morning ready to hit.

Anyway, "Can you play?"

I thought about it. My back wasn't all that sore. If I walked or hit one far enough, I wouldn't have to run hard. Maybe I'd get one at-bat, and I'd slap the ball between the shortstop and the third baseman, and then, as I ambled down to first base, somebody who was still on the team would show up and come running over from the parking lot to replace me on first base. Maybe I wouldn't have to run at all.

Wasn't it fun to think so.

"No, kid," I said. "I can't play. But thanks for asking.

This program aired on May 9, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.