A Dark Spot on the SunbySunrockSin©
It was a decision I didn't understand, but one that I would never think to question at that time in my life. Like most any other baseball player I simply shuffled through the dirt and moved from my familiar position at shortstop over to third base. Physically I only moved about thirty feet from my normal spot on the field, but as accustomed as I had grown to shortstop, the new territory could have been the back of the moon.
I had been enjoying the best year in my little league career up to that point. Although a weak hitter, I excelled in the field and as shortstop I was the complete defensive player. Besides covering my territory between second and third base without any errors, I was always in position taking a cutoff throw from the outfield to backing up the second and third basemen. It never mattered how important the game or what the score was, I tenaciously played every game as if it was the World Series. My mother can attest to that tenacity still noting how I always had the dirtiest uniform on the team.
Late in the game, the first thing I noticed as I straddled the bag at third, was the setting sun shining brightly from just over the pitcher's shoulder. Glancing first at the runner as he moved several steps off the base, I pulled down the brim of my hat, squinted my eyes and looked back into the glaring sun. The pitcher became a thin, dark silhouette against a searing forest fire of a sun.
I lifted my glove up, ready to catch a pickoff throw if the pitcher decided to try and catch the runner. Between the top of my glove and the bill of my hat, I tried to focus as the dark shadow began winding up. I began chattering, "Hey batter, batter, batter, batter, hey batter, batter, batter, batter..." as he leaned toward the plate and flung his fastball like a comet.
"Strike one," I heard the umpire shout out as I relaxed and looked away from the sun watching the white spots dance about as I blinked my eyes. The base runner moved toward me, defiantly kicked the bag and then moved back into position, slowly sliding further and further from the bag. Squinting, I moved my glove up again and tried to make sense of the pitcher's shadowy movements.
Seeing his glove high in the air I again started chattering, "No hitter, no hitter, hey batter, batter, batter..." A stick shadow leaned forward and threw again, the loud "Pop!" of the ball impacting the catcher's mitt let me know I could close my eyes for a few moments. On the dark background of my eyelids, I saw a kaleidoscope light show sparkling wildly before me.
Opening my eyes and looking down, I saw the base runner's foot kick the bag once again. I took a quick look at the umpire and, between the spots in my eyes, I saw him signal there were two strikes and no balls. Relaxing a bit, figuring the pitcher would surely concentrate on the strike out, I looked back to the pitcher and saw the sun at its absolute worst, the burning rays bringing tears to my eyes. Pulling my hat down further and holding up my glove, I blinked away the tears and got ready.
With a quick glance to my right, I noticed the base runner had slid an extra step toward home plate and I sensed an uncomfortable pause in the shadowy figure on the pitcher's mound before he started his wind up. I remained quiet as I heard the other players on my team begin the chatter again, "Hey batter, batter, ba..." and then it suddenly went quiet for me as I noticed the pitcher's silhouette lean towards me as he aimed his fastest throw directly to me.
I moved on instinct, remembering what some of the older players told me about how to catch a ball in the sun. It was quite simple they said, you merely, "Peek through the webbing in your glove until you see a dark spot on the sun. All you have to do is watch that dark spot until it hits your glove." And there it was, in the middle of the bright light a dark, black spot grew and grew at an incredible speed.
All I had to do was wait until the dark spot hit the glove and then I could spin and tag the runner, completing the universal perfect pickoff play. The dark spot quickly blacked out the sunlight and I closed my glove and began to swing it toward the runner desperately diving back toward the base. Unfortunately I moved a split second too soon and instead of hearing the satisfying thump of the ball in my glove I hear an odd, "Whoosh," and then a disheartening, "Thwock," as a swirling star field suddenly blinded me.
Oddly, the pain wasn't that bad as the ball grazed off of my glove and hit me in the eye, but all I could think to do was drop to the ground. I tasted a bit of the dirt, but in falling, my head came to rest on my glove and besides a dull throbbing in my eye I was fine. I rolled onto my back and found myself looking up at a group of people all rotating around me.
"You okay Red?" I heard my coach ask.
"Yeah, my eye hurts a little," I replied, hearing a few relieved laughs in the people around me. "The sun got in my eyes," I then said, trying to explain why I missed the ball.
"Don't worry about that, let me see your eye," he said.
I sat up and let him look at the eye. After a few moments he lifted me up and walked me off the field toward the dugout. I tried to pull away and complained, "I got to get back in..."
"The games over man," I heard someone say. Only then did I realize my error had let in the winning run. I didn't know what to say, letting my team down like that and yet, strangely they all hovered around me as the coach handed me a towel wrapped around some ice. The coach even took us out for slurpees, something he normally only did when we won the game.
Actually, the pain from the brain freeze I got slurping down my slurpee was much worse than getting hit in the eye. I never even got a black eye from the ball, but now whenever I am in the bright sunlight I can't help but search for that dark spot on the sun once again.