It is after eight-thirty on a school night in early April and, of course, cold and dark. There are only a few boys left at the field and all of them are standing around the batting cage, hoping for one more turn. The coach counts heads under the street lamps that illumine the cage and is reassured. He is almost certain now that none of his charges has slipped off in the darkness to the creek or the railroad tracks or the highway.
His assistant is still in the cage, serving up fat pitches to a four-foot-eleven nine-year-old who is doing his best to swing freely while bundled up in a hooded parka that his mother, who thinks that this practice session has gone on way too long, insisted that he put on. The kids leaning against the sides of the cage are so tired and cold that they don’t even razz the batter.
The coach is also tired and cold and burdened not only with the lobbying of parents of players, he is worried about matters at work and whether he has forgotten or left unfinished anything that is due tomorrow morning. There are also things at the house left undone and bills that look daunting.
He walks out of the circle of light surrounding the batting cage and back onto the field, considering the deplorable state of the outfield grass, the rocky infield and the ever-present mud-hole just behind third base. He dispairs of finding one man among his crew who might be able to get them through four innings on opening day. Not a one of his pitchers can find the plate consistently.
He reaches the basepaths and pulls the bases from their plugs and caries them to a rickety equipment shed and fumbles in the dark for his key and opens the door and drops the bases onto a pile of equipment on the floor. He locks up and stands beside the shed and looks back across the field to the batting cage and hears the plink of the bat and the constant encouragement being barked at the hitter by his assistant coach. He looks at the sky. The quarter-moon and Venus bright against the firmament. And he wonders how and why the gates of heaven opened and allowed him to have a place in this game one more time. He sighs, and knows that in only a short while those boys leaning against the cage will be at desks in offices and all of this magic will be gone.