My library gig and my love of baseball have one thing in common: they both bring my childhood back around when I least expect it. Explaining our local quartz exhibit by producing a “diamond” my father dug, the only memento of him I carry at all times. Letting you know I did the Summer Reading when I was your age only difference being Garfield instead of Peppa Pig. Our microfilm archive slamming my childhood into a stranger’s history as if a runner barreling toward a catcher who cannot give in, knocking both out cold.
I overheard my co-worker Jessica helping an out-of-towner search our archives for something baseball-related. He’d played one year in the minors, for the 1984 Jamestown Expos. “Before they were the Jammers.” “How’d you know that?” “I had a roommate from Jamestown,” then sheepishly, “I’m a baseball nerd. Grew up thinking the only cool thing about this city was how we once had the Little Falls Mets.” I explained my childhood fascination with the reality that, while a few might end up in The Biggest City, for one summer, they played for my hometown.
Greg Hudson. Fifteen games, 1.72 ERA. Promising before injuries, after which he got a degree in engineering. He was meeting with a plant outside Utica, piggybacking research on an away-game he’d pitched here. Back then, pitchers hit in the National League but in the minors, only when NL affiliates faced off did pitchers hit. Twelve plate-appearances, one single. But the hit wasn’t his focus. Rather, it was his one decent swing that night, which sliced foul and broke a little girl’s nose. He didn’t know who he hit then, just that the game was stopped for doctors.
“Could’ve been worse, hospital’s three blocks from the field.”
“I noticed when I drove here.”
“I was born there.”
Next evening, he found himself face-to-face with the father of that little girl. Awful spot for a kid in his first-and-last-and-only year. “I know it was an accident… but I need you to sign this.” The ball that broke his daughter’s nose. Greg apologized and signed. This stuck with him, more than hits or outs, up until today. Jessica found some hospital in-takes. He ran each past me, hoping I might know the girl. I recognized surnames, nothing more.
I wrote a story once, I said, about my love of baseball. Gave him a website and spelled out “C-e-c-c-o-n-i.” “Like Madonna?” “Different line at Ellis.” He typed it in his phone which spat out my insignificant IMDb profile. Piddling credits. Wasn’t much older than that Expo when I got them. “An actor!”. “Technically.” If credited extras count. Two colliding at home-plate. That long-past summer impressed me. Standing behind Wanda Sykes for minute somehow impressed him too.
That’s the library for me, baseball for us all. Lives slice foul but with their help we move on. Past losses become pocket-gems, memories to be taken somewhere new. Or seen again fresh, through a stranger’s eyes. That works as well.