I arrived late at Peccole Park, squeezed
into my usual space behind the clubhouse,
left the car, caught a quick glimpse
of a spheroid hurtling toward me at warp
speed. A UFO, maybe a meteorite?
No, it was a baseball. And in that split
second of recognition, I thought of my father.

He took me to my first big league ball game
when I was five – Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis.
Sparse crowd, kids chasing foul balls, catching
some. I wanted to join them. Dad said no,
those balls come fast, they’re hard, you’re
too young. Later, you’ll have chances.
Just remember to be ready.

I’ve seen so many games since then, in ballparks –
major league and minor – across the country,
spring training stadiums in Phoenix and Tucson,
and when, in a brief career as a reporter
covering, among other sports, high school
baseball for the Fresno Bee, I avoided press
boxes, sat instead in stands.

College contests, too, on campuses home
and away, countless Little League outings on warm
days, and nippy nights, watching kids and grandkids.
Every game, in all venues, I hoped I’d catch a foul,
never had a chance. But I always recalled
Dad’s wise advice. Remember to be ready.
Now, at Peccole, a foul ball was headed to my head.

After the game, I gave that ball to the coach.
Next day, he sent me a batting helmet.