I wanted to sprawl out on the living room couch and watch my Saturday morning cartoons, but my mom insisted I get ready for my T-ball game. It was supposed to be a high of 101 degrees that mid-July day, but I still had to wear the tight, sweaty uniform, with the long sleeves, the long pants, the ridiculous hat. I hate hats. Always have.
I’ve also had a total disinterest in sports. I understand why people love to play them and watch them, but I’ve always been more attracted to stories. If I have the choice of watching a basketball playoff or watching the new Wes Anderson movie, I’ll pick the movie. I’ve played golf my whole life, I like to ski, and I was a stellar fullback in soccer until I was fourteen, but sports have never really been for me — a hot day in the summer of 1991 marked one of the reasons why.
I’m grateful to my parents for never pushing me into any sport I didn’t want to play — I was six feet tall by the time I reached the sixth grade, and they still didn’t force me into basketball — but they, as all parents should, exposed me to all the different sports, in the off-chance I wanted to pursue one further. During the summer following first grade, I played T-ball, the kiddie version of baseball so lame there wasn’t even a pitcher.
No matter. I was still miserable.
I stood in the pigpen behind the mound, surrounded by ten or more players cheering on the kid at bat. I tried to cheer, too — the guy attempting his second swing was my best friend Brandon — but I spent more time wiping the sweat from my forehead than waving my hands in the air in excitement. The sun wasn’t merely shining above me like any other day; it was holding me in a firm grasp with no chance of letting go.
“All right! Rowe! You’re up!”
I licked my lips. Coughed and sighed. Felt vomit rise up my esophagus, but I swallowed it back down. The heat was so intense that the baseball diamond before me went blurry, creating enough diamonds in my mind’s eye to allude that I was filthy rich.
I tried to stay focused on the baseball. It sat so calm on that thin perch, like it wanted to stay put for the rest of the afternoon. I lifted the heavy bat into the air and found my proper stance. I didn’t want to let the heat beat me, but at that point it had already won. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be at home, immersed in air conditioning, in my turquoise pajamas watching Bobby’s World.
I swung once. Missed.
“That’s okay!” my dad shouted from the stands. “You’ll get the next one!”
I swung again. Another miss.
My teammates clapped, knowing that I, the tallest player of the Granite Bay Pirates, could not, would not, fail them.
I swung at the ball a third time, but collapsed on the ground before my bat could make contact. For the first time in my life — still to date the only time — I passed out from the heat. I came to, just a few seconds later, but that was it. I was done.
My Bobby’s World marathon the following Saturday was GLORIOUS.