for my brother, Mike

A line-up card arrived today in the mail,
unexpectedly. My brother’s son’s baseball
coach wrote that it was a college tradition
to send to parents the card commemorating
a pitcher’s first win. A line-up card is a
souvenir, but not today. Today, it represents
the people positioned to be in and out of the
son’s life, offering an encouraging nod, a
timely word, a pat on the back, a tousle of
his hair. It is for the coaches and the players,
past and present. But to the father, the card
is eleven months of San Francisco sunsets
breathing in the diamond’s dust year after
year with no two days alike. It is thousands
of miles traveled to and from fields in places
only baseball can invite a young boy and
his old man. It is the miles on a small boy’s
elbow. It is the season-to-season changes,
more dramatic than weather. It is the arm
around a shoulder after an infield error on a
groundball cost the team an extra-inning win,
the awe of a no-hitter pitched with a butterflied
blister sealed shut by glue, the pride of the
humility when the feat was shrugged off in
favor of a burger. It is sacrifice, it is discipline.
It is more than a game and, sometimes, only a
game. It symbolizes so much more than the first
win. To a father and a son, it is the purchase of
the first mitt, the perfection of the first catch.