Summer mornings meant fateful minutes
of standing around home plate
as two captains picked their teams.
I was always last and usually a throw-in
when the number of kids wasn’t even.

Play right, my unlucky captain would growl,
banishing me to that place for chumps
who couldn’t catch or throw
or do anything useful for a team of 6-to-12-year-olds
who played in the neighborhood.

At bat, I’d swing and miss
or hit a weak dribbler to the pitcher
as the other kids groaned and grumbled
back into the field,
our half-inning over.

Only once did I play
catch with my father,
who came home tired from a ten-hour day
and was nagged by my mother into going
outside with a ball.

With his old glove and a catcher’s mitt,
he threw to me, a kid afraid
of anything harder than a toss,
a child who flinched and headed inside
when his pitches stung my hand.

Years later, with my youngest son,
I’d catch and throw for hours.
Coaching his team, I’d stand on third,
windmilling with joy,
sending happy children home.