The boy could not see his father
sitting in his usual spot in right field,

But he did not miss the unmistakable
pride when he appeared near the dugout.

Clenched in his rough hand, he carried
a new Adirondack wooden bat, and presented

It to the boy as though he were a prince
receiving a scepter from the king.

Wrapping his hands around the handle
he brought the barrel to rest on his shoulder

Like real sluggers do. The weight, the varnish,
and the grain were as smooth, as perfect

As his father’s smile that glowed
beneath the day’s toil and sweat.

How does a young boy understand
the cost of such a gift?

The smile. The love. The dreams. The boy
wanted to preserve and repay them all.

As he took his practice swings
in the on-deck circle,

He could not imagine hitting a home
run. He could imagine nothing

But failure and disappointment, like
breaking it with a soft grounder to the mound.

In the batter’s box he tapped the bat
on the far corner of home plate and prayed.

The first pitch bent his torso back slightly,
and the boy feigned being hit.

The umpire shrugged at both coaches before
mercifully awarding the boy first base

Where he hustled to safety,
and he has stayed to this day.