You can hear the game from a distance, announced by repeated cries of
"it-a-bip," a long, modulated and bewildering wail; a modified version of
"at a boy" rendered all but incomprehensible by an unknown regional dialect
or a powerful speech impediment.
Both teams of nearly teenage boys have stepped directly out of the 1940's,
neglecting to change their uniforms upon arrival in the 21st century. In
red, the Charlottetown Undecipherable Lettering are playing the Somebody's
Auto Supply, outfitted in blue. It hasn't rained in over a week and both
teams are wearing impressive amounts of the field. The dirt that hasn't
attached itself to the players is hurrying out to left field, spurred
onwards by the wind.
The home plate umpire is loud and dramatic and carries a gut that renders
him impervious to wild pitches. He is yelling at blue's coach who is
returning the favour with enthusiasm. An errant pitch has allowed the runner
at first to steal second. The runner is now walking to the dugout, scraping
dirt from his eyes and nose, spitting grime from between his lips - this
after he slid head-first into third. The umpire claims the throw from centre
field - where the ball lay after the second basemen missed the throw from
the catcher - beat the dirt-encrusted base runner. Both teams congratulate
the ump on his call, though the blue team does so with withering sarcasm.
Red replaces blue on the field, "Bishy" taking the mound. "Bishy" throws two
kinds of pitches: balls and hits. The first batter walks, as does the
second. The third brings the first home, the fourth brings the second and
the third home, the fifth is walked, and the sixth grounds out, but manages
to bring the fourth and fifth home. The very few people who claim to know
the score are parents of the boys dressed in red. If "Bishy" allows another
three runs - some say four - the game will be tied. This is the seventh, and
last inning of play.
"Bishy," his red uniform streaked with grass stains from an earlier tour of
duty in the outfield, allows two more runs. With only one out, and with
either the winning or tying run (depending on the score) at second, "Bishy"
finds the strike zone. He throws three consecutive strikes past a blue
player more interested in adjusting his oversized batting helmet than
swinging. The one swing launched is an awkward bludgeoning motion which
could never result in a decent hit, but is delivered with the zeal that
gives even horrible players something coaches refer to as "potential."
The newest batter, and possible third out, is a five and a half foot
monster: all awkward spindly limbs, but with an impressive reach. His first
swing is too early and sends the ball dribbling foul down the third
baseline. His second attempt is a bizarre swinging bunt, jeered by both
teams alike, though the blue squad adds a few words of encouragement as
afterthoughts. The monster steps back from the plate and drags his cleats
awkwardly across the ground as if scraping something from his feet. His
pride possibly, or maybe his dignity.
"Bishy" has pitched seven straight strikes - by far the most remarkable and
consistent pitching of the game. The umpire is calling the strikes long and
loud, his face reddening with the effort. As the score is still being
tabulated and debated fiercely, it is unclear what will result from a third
strike and the subsequent third out, but it is certainly far better, for
supporters of the red, than letting the little giant, now back in the
batters box, on base.
The pitch is a strike from the moment it leaves "Bishy's" hands to the
moment that it connects with the barrel of the bat. The ball reverses
direction, heading for the outfield at an unreachable height somewhere
between six and seven feet. All three outfielders run for the fence,
converging on the ball, which has fallen considerably short of that line of
demarcation, at nearly the same moment. Number eight launches the ball
blindly towards the infield as the first run scores.
When the giant hits home the game is over, blue carrying the day by a run or
two, and the ball is lost somewhere in the red team's dugout.
Matthew Dorrell throws a wicked circle change. For strikes.