Following the sound to find the soul of baseball at CORP
A scorching Saturday in late June at Central Oahu Regional Park, looking for the soul of baseball in the Hawaii Collegiate League. There are nine of us in the stands. Sweat is starting, and so is the realization that the just-now-remembered umbrella was forgotten back in the car. Baking in heat, bathing in dust, the Susan Sarandon "Bull Durham" speeches and James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams" soliloquies aren't exactly coming to life. No poetry. Just an uneven game on its way to a football score.
But there is a sound. A steady sound, a growing sound, coming from the horizon. Like the roar of a distant golf gallery when someone hits a great shot two holes up. Something. Something's going on.
Because I'm likely the only one there not related to anyone in uniform, I'm free to leave to follow the sound.
UP THE HILL, the noise louder now. The occasional kid in view, here and there, like outriders on the edge of the herd. Then to the crest of it, over the top -- into an explosion -- noise, kids, parents, concession stands featuring $1 Spam musubi. Kids everywhere, flying by, on skateboards, on bikes, on those shoes that have wheels. Whiz! Zoom! Walking through the scene like Henry Hill taking his date through the restaurant in "Goodfellas," like the guys walking into the pool hall in "Dazed and Confused."
Fields everywhere, all full, games going on. Baseball.
And another realization: It doesn't matter what those guys at AFI say; forget "Citizen Kane." No -- the best movie of all time stars Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal.
I'M DRAWN TO a game between Pinto teams, small kids, coach-pitch. Neither team can pull ahead. Dads chatter. Grandmas cheer. Another skateboard whizzes by in front of me. And it's perfect. It's all perfect.
I've found it.
The game goes into extra innings, and the heavy hitter comes up. He launches one, deep, the ball floating forever, the way it does in dreams.
But the center fielder is running, running. And then he jumps.
"Ohhhhhh!" someone says. I think it was me.
It's a great catch, a Jim Edmonds catch, a breathtaking catch. An instant classic at age 8. Everyone who saw it is taken aback.
All the kids are jumping, jumping. You can feel the momentum shifting, the emotion building. In the bottom of the inning they bring the winning run home and come together in a joyous mob. Their parents are glowing. The kid with the last hit is a hero. The coaches make them clean up the dugout. Whose rubbish is this?
In the other dugout the other coach addresses his long faces. "We lose as a team," he says. Beyond them, in the sun, volunteers are already preparing for the next game. There's mist in the air. You can smell water falling on infield dirt on a summer day.
The winning team heads off together for its postgame meeting, the parents jubilantly packing up stuff. "That's the best catch I've seen all year," somebody's dad tells the boy. They all walk away.
"When he caught the ball," his mom is saying, "I started to cry."