Before Dave’s softball game, Coach Paul, the long-time skipper for the Benny’s Bar and Grill softball team, waved him over. Dave grinned. After starting at first for six seasons, would he finally make captain? He jogged over. “Yes, Coach?”
Coach said, “Dave, you’re going to be a back-up next season.”
Dave choked. “What?”
“We all like you, but this team is supposed to bring positive publicity to Benny’s. What exactly do you think a 3-18 record means to the public?”
“That we’re good sports.”
Coach shook his head. “No, that we’re losers! I’m playing Larry Gray at first, so we have a shot at advancing in the playoffs. Next season, you can back up and coach third. Maybe pitch an inning if everybody else’s arms are tired, or if we’re ahead or behind twenty runs.”
Dave jogged to the dugout and slumped on the bench. What happened to the days when winning wasn’t as important as camaraderie and friendship? Sure, he had two hits and six walks in a hundred at-bats this year; sure he had given up twenty-five runs in ten innings pitched, but what about loyalty?
Naomi took her seat in the stands. The chance to be within a hundred feet of her oft-absent husband had made her a softball fan.
In the third inning, Dave walked up the steps and sat beside her. She pointed at him. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
The gullible little boy in a pudgy man’s body stared at her. “Um, Naomi . . . .”
“Yes, I was wearing a white dress and weren’t you the gentleman in the tuxedo?”
“They’re putting me on as a back-up.”
What? Dave had been starting forever. “You’re not injured, are you?”
“I’m fine, but I’m not going to get played anymore. I’ve played every game since I joined this team. Remember when I went 3-for-4 with a couple singles and a triple a few years back?”
Naomi touched his face. The poor thing must be devastated. “I’ve seen all your games, Honey, and as much as you love the game, you’re not Lou Grant.”
Dave blinked. “From the sitcom? You mean Lou Gehrig, don’t you?”
“Oh, there’s a difference?”
Through the next few innings, Naomi tried not to grin as she sat with an arm around Dave. Maybe, if he didn’t get to start anymore, he’d spend more time with her.
A cry of pain echoed through the ballpark over the crowd’s applause.
Naomi glanced down at the field. Dave’s replacement at first limped to the bench. Looked like he’d made a great catch to end the top of the sixth, but twisted his ankle in the process. Coach Paul screamed, “Johnson! Get down here!”
Dave ran down onto the field and into the dugout. Naomi sighed. That was her life. These moments never lasted long enough.
Continued Next Tuesday
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