The Fancy Goat
So back in the day, I used to be a pretty good baseball player. I was just sort of inconsistent about it. I had the curse of always being a little surprised when I did something really well (opposed to feeling surprised when I did something bad). But I was a really good hitter and fielded well-- so I don't know why I was constantly surprised when I did something right. (When I got into high school I sort of dropped out of sports and started drinking wine coolers and turned into a geek) but for 7th thru like 9th grade I was in the sports zone. Big time. It was my hay-day. But there was one game I remember things sort of changed for my 'surprise' attitude toward doing something good on the field.
Sunny day. Bottom of the 9th. Our team was up by one run. I was playing shortstop. No outs. Man on first. We just needed three outs and we'd win the game. I pounded my mitt with my fist. I wanted to win.
A batter steps up and he cracks a skidding grounder at me. I get infront of the ball and it takes a wild high hop and smashes me right in the mouth full speed. The ball hit me in the face! I remember seeing stars when I closed my eyes on contact. It stung like hell. But I kept it together. Kept my head in the game. I picked up the ball and whipped a friggin dead center speedy throw to first base. Got the guy out. The throw was amazing (if I do say so myself... which I just did) especially since I stopped the ball with my face a second before. The ump called time-out and people came to look at my mouth to see if I was ok. There was a little blood and my upper lip had already swollen up big. But I was basically ok. My teeth were all still there. I told them I was ok to keep playing.
Ok. One out. The guy who was on first had gone to second base. Man on second. No one on first. I spit some blood on the field.
The very next batter steps up and he smashes a line drive toward left field. It's heading over my head. I have a vague recollection of time slowing down ever so slightly. Giving me an extra step on the ball. I spring into action and jump high, do one of those awkward snaggy grabs and just snatch the thing out of the air for the second out. I remember the ball hitting my palm instead of the netting of the mitt and stinging bad. But it felt really good. And with my feet off the ground and the ball in my mitt I remember feeling the first tingle of not being surprised at doing something well on the field. In that split second it dawned on me that I was actually really good at this. Maybe even... great at this. I was 100% in the zone. That zone that the professionals must play in. That feeling of just being one step ahead--- and confident enough to feel like... a natural.
The runner who was on second base had started to head toward third assuming the line drive was going out into left field. He was pretty far off the bag and surprised to see I caught it. He turned to desperately head back to second. All I needed to do was quickly throw the ball to the second baseman for a double play. End of inning. End of game. I whip the ball sidearm... and my heart sank. As soon as it left my hand I knew what happened. I completely overthrew the ball super bad. It was basically a wild throw out into right field. It went wayyyy out there. The runner saw the ball go. He touched second base and took off running for third. The right fielder woke up and chased my wild throw. The runner rounded third and headed to home. I was like NOOOOO! The right fielder couldn't get the ball there in time. The run scored. The game was tied. Within a minute. I went from 'Superhero Mega Superstar!!!!' to 'Dickboy-who-threw-an-easy-out-way-out-into-right-field-like-a-dick.'
Of course, within the next few batters another run came in and we lost the game. That was that. Game over. I walked into the dugout with a big fat lip sort of half-accepting 'good game' congratulations but obviously no one knew what to say. It was almost a perfect game for me. Instead I was a just a fancy goat. From then on, I was kind of remained a sort of a good athlete but I never felt that Pro-zone again. And I continued to feel surprised whenever I hit the ball or made a throw.
Every once in a while I think back on that game and wonder if I actually connected that throw to second...and got that out... and won that game on a spectacular double play. Would I have stayed in that zone? Would I have stopped being 'surprised'? Could I have gone pro? Is that how it works? Maybe...
(But realistically probably not. A true pro wouldn't have thought twice about one bad throw. And probably never felt surprised about being really good...)