So, this past Saturday night at a minor league baseball game in the fourth or fifth inning, a left-handed hitter fouled a ball into the stands. It was not a run-of-the-mill pop fly foul, but a high line drive straight to the pectoralis major muscle on the right side of my chest just below the clavicle. I saw it coming. There was no ducking. The two men on either side of me were frozen in their seats knowing Something Bad was About to Happen, and they were powerless to prevent it, or so they told me afterwards. An inning later the 10 year-old boy in the seat behind me said “I should have tried to catch that with my glove!” The delay of his response is a testament to how quickly it happened. We were all a little in shock over the whole thing. For the remainder of the game, every time we lost track of the trajectory of a foul ball, I cowered a little (or a lot, depending on how fast it left the bat) until I was sure it was headed toward some other poor soul far away in the stands.
I remember a sickening sort of sound when the ball hit, but cannot quite put it into words. Not a crunch. But sort of a crunch. The incident has left me badly bruised and swollen and sore. Two security guards checked in on me a few pitches later. By then, my seatmates had had me speak (apparently I had some difficulty with that), and then stand and wave in the direction of people who are paid to look after victims of foul balls. I had obeyed both instructions in a blind daze, feeling all the while terribly uncomfortable with both the level of attention I was receiving and pain I was feeling. One of the security people tried to hand me a plastic bag of ice, but I foolishly turned him down when visions of myself sporting a wet shirt flashed before my eyes. That would have broken me. Also, I am pretty sure the thought “If I am holding a bag of ice to my chest, how will I knit?” crossed my mind.
That’s correct. I was knitting. Dangerous behavior in a minor league ballpark, I know, but it was a sock, a second sock even, and I was making every effort to be as attentive as the next spectator. For a couple of days after, pain radiated up through my neck to my teeth and beyond, and down my arm past my elbow. There is still a tender knot of tissue over my collarbone that makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be prudent to visit the doctor just to be sure. But overall, I think I am on the mend even if I am hideously discolored. And I mean Hideously. It is one ginormous ugly bruise.
I am in the midst of reading Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates about the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were wont to explain every event, good or bad, in their lives and others as an act of God’s Providence. Here is a bit from early on in the book:
The English Puritans were obsessed with the idea of providence, and that word is more ominous to them than it sounds to us. It means care, but it also means control. It does not just mean that God will provide. It means that God will provide whatever the hell God wants and the Puritans will thank Him for it even if He provides them with nothing more than a slow death in a long winter. It means that if they’re scared and small and lowly enough He just might toss a half-eaten corncob their way. It means that the world isn’t fair and it’s their fault. It means that God is the sovereign, the authority. It means manna from heaven, but it also means bow down.
There is a part of me, albeit a small part I have done much to quell over the past few decades, that thinks a little like the Puritans. When a foul ball hits me hard and fast near the sternum, perhaps the Universe or God or Providence is trying to tell me something. Like pay attention! Be present! Or, straighten up and fly right! Or, who do you think you are? Don’t go getting the big head, or too comfortable in your own skin for that matter either!
And sometimes a random line drive foul ball to the chest is nothing more than a random line drive foul ball to the chest. I wonder if I can find the player who sent me this missive/missile from the universe and get him to sign the ball?
12 July 2012 — ETA: I wrote to the people who run the local minor league team to see if they knew who had hit that particular foul ball. They tried to narrow it down via e-mail and my and my family’s disparate memories of what happened when, then gave up and had me stop by and pick up a DVD of the game. Last night Bruce and I watched it (yawn, but it was boring the first time, no offense to baseball fans intended), and saw the hit from the perspective of the camera near homeplate that follows the trajectory of a ball as it leaves the bat. The camera, thankfully, did not linger on the repercussions of the hit, and so I am not discernible except as one in a bunch of distant red-shirted (Episcopal night at the park) people who react to its sudden landing. So. Now I know who hit it. What next?