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Story Time With Hank | ADHD in the Outfield

baseball boy
Hank Henry

Still on the road, so this is gonna be another quickie. I’d apologize, but “you’re welcome” is probably more appropriate.

The plan this week was the same as the plan last week: namely, sitting in bars, dropping some eaves, hoping other people would basically write this thing for me. Except last week’s material came out of a clean and well-lit sports bar, which I figured was a fluke. The best stories, in my experience, usually come out of the shittiest bars. So for three nights I sat in dark rooms on wobbly stools, waiting, listening and taking copious notes. Being looked at weird for taking such copious notes. But I think I overshot my mark; these bars were too shitty. I didn’t hear the kinds of conversations I was hoping to hear, the kinds of conversations I can share with tender-hearted readers. I have a notebook full of stories about prostitutes.

So it’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m back in the sports bar. I don’t know where a thousand-ish words (give or take a few hundred) are going to come from. We’ll find out together. Isn’t that exciting? Let the adventure begin.

As I pound my fists against this keyboard (I’m not a strong typer), the Little League World Series is playing out on a TV in the background. Japan’s up 2-0 on the plucky American champions out of good ol’ Goodletsville, Tennessee, population: 15,000 and change. Probably Twitter is lit up with jingoism like it’s 1943 or just after a women’s soccer final, but scuttlebutt has it the kids on these teams have been hanging out all week and become good friends. It’s the kind of legitimately sweet story that gives Rick Reilly an erection.

I never played little league baseball myself, because baseball is a terrible game, fit only for keeping one’s eyes half-occupied while drinking. I did, however, briefly play t-ball.

I was five years old at the time, and like any five-year-old doing anything, I was not any good at all. But even on a team full of clumsy, preliterate children, I stood out as a special kind of awful, the kind of unskilled that only happens once in a generation.

I played right field for the Twins. When I discovered, just a year or two ago, that right field is where managers try to hide their worst players, I was hurt but not surprised. I don’t recall a ball ever being hit my way in the outfield. What I do remember is twirling in place under the hot afternoon sun; lying on my back in the outfield and watching the clouds overhead change shape; tearing handfuls of grass out of the ground, prancing about the infield, and throwing them at my teammates. Luckily, I was a bad baseball player and the grass rarely hit its target.

At season’s end, I was the only player on my t-ball team who’d never been awarded a game ball. It was the right thing to do; my winning such an award would have cheapened it for everyone else.

Japan’s just gone up by five in the third, and my bladder is full. What do I do with my laptop in this situation? Do I take it into the restroom with me, or can I trust the clientele of this establishment not to steal it off the table in my absence? If I take it with me, will everyone else in here be offended? Will they feel their honor’s been called into question? Fuck it, I’m taking it with me.

***

Back at the table now. Were those dirty looks real or imagined? It doesn’t matter—I feel like an ass. I should be more trusting. I wonder if someone spat in my beer. Serve me right if they did.

Japan is beating the stuffing out of our homegrown heroes. It’s 10-1 after four. Andre Braugher is on a TV show about a submarine, and the fellas at the bar are pumped.

MAN #1: You ever watch Homicide?

MAN #2: I fucking loved that show!

MAN #1: Incredible show. Had that guy with the puppy dog eyes, you know?

MAN #2: I love that guy!

MAN #1: But Andre Braugher, man. Andre Braugher killed it on that show.

MAN #2: Love Andre Braugher. I’ll watch him on a submarine for sure. For sure, man. Gotta be better than that garbage he did on TNT.

MAN #1: Ray Romano can kiss my fat ass.

***

Wait. What’s happening? Is it over? It is. Japan has just mercy ruled their way to a championship with an inning to spare. These little podunk Tennessee shitbirds have gone on television and embarrassed our great nation in front of the whole goddamn world. Nomar Garciaparra is crying in the announcers’ booth. Karl Ravesh has run onto the field with an aluminum bat and bad intentions. Chris McKendry, reporting from the parking lot, is closing her hand hard in a car door, again and again and again. Baseball has never been less painful to watch.

***

Hank is still on the road eaves-dropping on anybody he can find. Overhear an interesting conversation? Let Hank know at [email protected].

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