The most awkward part of the diamond is the outfield. It’s a respectable place to be on a professional team—but the exact opposite in little league. It’s less of a position and more of a purgatory for dandelion pickers.
I learned a lot about fate while waiting in outfields. I dreaded the sound that all baseball players recognize as the sound of a pop-up. I watched the tall arc of the ball go up, up, and up, waiting patiently for it to come down right where I stood. If I caught the ball, I’d be chastised for not getting it in quickly enough. It doesn’t matter how fast you get the ball to the infield, it’s never fast enough. No one is happy when you catch a pop fly because it’s expected—that’s your job as an outfielder. It’s the only reason they stuck you there in the first place.
While you watch you see your teammates, the ones with easier, more fulfilling positions, screw up time and time again, because they know you’re there to back them up. They can always count on you.
So I started trusting the ball instead. I learned it wasn’t up to me whether I caught it or not. I would try with all my prepubescent will to catch it and sometimes I would, sometimes I wouldn’t. Then sometimes I wouldn’t care if I caught it and it would drop like magic right into my glove.
I realized it was up to the ball, not me. The luck of the draw, the fifty-fifty, the almighty coin toss. It wasn’t up to me or the coach or the other players or the parents who said “We didn’t try hard enough today, We didn’t put our hearts in it,” eager to lay blame on kids too busy waving their hands outside the passenger-seat windows, letting their palms glide lazily over the wind, like tiny fingered airplanes.