Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

Vincent Renstrom

When Baseball Is Life, and Vice-Versa, and Death, Too

Manic depressive hurler
on a good day, oh so good
Flinger of wild pitches
and bases on balls for
the other guys
and that’s a big L
for bipolar boy
on a bad day

When he’s pointing north he
thrives on the derring-do
the vertigo of the tight rope
the walking-through-fire act
escaping a bases-loaded jam
toeing the rubber
eyeing the sign
rocking, firing
just smoke trails
follow him off the field
as he hops the baseline
looks into the vast oneness of fans
beyond the roof of the dugout
all woofing or all roaring
aah...nothing to it

But when things go south he’s
fuming and making excuses like
“It was hot out there” or
“Wish I had some Gold
Glovers fielding behind me”
or waxing existentialist:
“How am I ever going to
appreciate my summer home
if I play ball all summer?” or
“Can you fathom the depths
or my malaise, man?” as he
spits sunflower seed shells
all over his uniform and
the floor beneath the bench

And when they hit him hard
it hurts this up-down fellow
And when he misses their bats
it’s sweet, and he smiles
like some kind of freak
and sometimes it’s both
in one game, one inning
even, and he struggles
to keep that balance
in his head

And sometimes he winds up
so much that he’s too wound up
And that’s when friends and
family become key
because they knew him when
and they’re still here and
they’ve seen it all and they
remember the glory, as well
as the darkest, lowest points

Perhaps he should stop pitching
and turn to coaching others
Maybe he could live
vicariously through his
tutees, but he’s too young
yet for that and so he
climbs that dirt as often
as they’ll let him, silently
singing the catchy ditty
that he made up himself
when he was a teenager
a relaxation technique
the shrink called it:

Hey batter, hey batter
hum, baby, hum
Life steps to the plate again
Let's see if it can hit this one

©2009 by Vincent Renstrom

Vincent Renstrom lives with his wife and daughter in Middletown, Ohio. His poems appear in MARGIE, The Centrifugal Eye, Silenced Press, Tertulia, and other journals. A native of northern Indiana, he is a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs.

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