White chalk draws the outlines of the orange clay in between. That orange clay, gritty to the core, sifts through your fingers, leaves your palms a soft orange. Home plate stares out into a field of dreams, recalling memories of the worn-out sandlot where it all started in a backyard some decades ago. There are so many people in the stands that it becomes a faceless crowd staring back out at you. Faceless except for that one girl, above the dugout. She was there every home game, always in the same seat.
I learned that diamond as a kid, tracing my fingers along the clay, moving my fingers to my face and innocently rubbing it in to my skin. I remember fondly how warm it had felt under my eyes, giving new color to my cheeks. The bags along the infield give shape to the diamond, the biggest of stages for any young gun-slinging pitcher or a southern boy with a hot bat and a taste for flying high.
The man on the mound stares down the batter’s box, rubber ball in his one hand, dangling loosely from his side. A shake of the head twice before he gets the call he wants. Just let me throw the smoke, he says under his breath. Just let me give him my fastball, and we’ll see if he can hit it.
The sun beats down on the players, leaving red evidence of its touch on their necks by game’s end. At night, luminescent light reflects off the artificial turf, marked only by the occasional logo from stadium to stadium. Sometimes you can see the marked trail of metal cleats from center field to the deeper part of the track, the last sign of a desperate attempt at pursuing a long fly ball. Maybe it went all the way, and maybe, just maybe, as the fielder’s glove reached over the fence and above closed eyes, a miracle happened.
Because miracles tend to happen in the field of dreams.