I’m Trying Out for the METS, Now?

It begins with me walking out of a friend’s house. Stephen Downs was his name. I’m wearing the off-white pants with the thin black stripe down the side, and the skimpy green T-shirt that was our uniform top. Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 154, lettered in white across the chest, no identity lettered across my upper back. (We didn’t have numbers, so you couldn’t tell the players even with a program.) (No program, either. Who would read it?) It was the last ballclub I played on as a teenager. We were pretty good, winning a B-level provincial championship that year.(Wait, Steve wasn’t on that team!) I played centre field and a little shortstop, and hit mainly leadoff. Now I’m walking along streets that aren’t as familiar as they should be. My sneakers are unlaced. I’m not carrying my spikes.

I’m chilly in that skin-tight T, but I guess I look okay and there’s a bounce in my step. It feels like fall and rain, but I have my glove under my arm and I’m excited. I get to play! I get to shag and run and hit. I feel ready, but there’s a vague realization that it has been awhile. I walk into the park. Two guys are throwing. They’re wearing a very different uniform, much better than mine. The other team. Except that one of them looked familiar from the corner of my averted eye and his belated ‘hey’ confirms that he is a friend and, I guess, teammate. And then I see Monte (remember Monte? Good writer, a cafeteria kibitzer, could’ve been a decent basketball player), and he’s wearing that same high-quality Mets pinstriped uni. I don’t get it. Since when are we the Mets?

I’m not so sure about this. When was the last time I played? And why am I just getting started in September? Something about Monte being here, tall and splendid-splinter slim in his ‘stripes, makes me question: can I still do this? I still can’t find my spikes, my glove looks dry and flat, and it dawns on me in slow but inevitable motion that I’m a long way past 19, or even 29. I’m twenty-five pounds heavy with a rusty right shoulder. My ancient ankles make the wide swing before first base, and that hard cut across the inside of the bag, painful to imagine. I remember now. It’s a cruel, cruel dream. I’ve had it before, about tryouts for basketball and football teams that I suddenly realize I’m far too old for. It’s a reminder, as if I needed it in my friggin’ sleep, that my sporting days lie far behind. It hurts every time.


But I don’t need a flat belly and quick feet to play guitar.

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