WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “popliteal” submitted by Norman B.
Pop always says, if you aren’t signed by nineteen, you aren’t playing in the majors, son.
The physical ease of his early years performing instinctual feats of athleticism for clusters of scouts, scrambling from squat to throw without thought of his body. Now he catalogues, categorizes various parts — shoulder, wrist, knee, lower back — testing their reactions to minute adjustment. Analyzing in the hours between the time he wakes, clammy, and the morning alarm.
His nineteenth birthday is in three weeks. Less. Two weeks, six days.
He prays — at night, upon waking, before meals — for a minor league contract, modest signing bonus, something he can put into real estate, invest in his future. His future no longer shaping up to be televised games, championships, endorsement deals, All-Stars, autographing balls for wide-eyed boys shoved forward by their beaming fathers.
His preternatural — their word, bandied about so often he, they, all believed —early and high school promise giving way to an injury-riddled college career. Slow slide. His name, when — if— mentioned, is in voices shaded with regret.
No matter how many times he replays it — on screens, in his head — he has yet to pinpoint what he did, the moment before his knee popped. Which is crazy, when his shoulder tore he knew as he threw his angle was wrong, an off-kilter catch he failed to optimal-adjust in his determination to shut down the attempted steal. Won that battle, may have lost the war.
Pop always says, you gotta watch the injuries, folks don’t like to buy used cars.
Shoulder surgery a bitch to bounce back from, but they did it, he and his team of professional caregivers. Returned performing beyond expectations. Naysayers silenced. Preternatural whispered, no longer “bandied”, but he was willing to traffic in whispers, ride The Comeback Kid narrative.
A used-goods made-good shoulder one thing, a catcher with an unreliable wrist and a blown-out knee on top of an unexpected recovery — facing facts, unlike his parents — he is no longer scout bait.
He may not be a ball player. Not after this season.
Caught a ball bare-handed before he walked, his parents crowed, family legend. He has never not had a game, practice, tournament. Smelled of anything other than Ben Gay. Been anything other than a special talent.
He flexes his foot, winces at the tinge behind his knee. Touches the spot, the non-functioning hinge upon which all is hinged. Tests the patella-tracking trajectory. Checks the time, still hours before his orthopedist appointment.
What happens when you are no longer good at the thing at which you are (were) best? He has never been interested in much of anything besides baseball. Lincoln Logs, when he was young, he built fantastic forts. Maybe he can go into construction.
No one to confide in, he must project an aura of confidence. If he doubts, they all doubt. They do doubt, but still hold hope for their doubts to be dissuaded.
In the Business of Baseball, a staunch belief in miracles.
He checks the clock, again, recalculates. Two weeks, five days, twenty-two hours, thirty-six minutes.
This genesis of this post written during an impromptu Happy Hour visit to Ward III (tribeca), continued at what was STILL Happy Hour(s) at 151 Rivington (les), edited over an Americano at the Guggenheim Cafe (upper east)
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