The Designated Hitter
I hesitate to write about baseball because as much as I enjoy the poetic sight of world class athletes performing at their peak, I know next to nothing about the game.
I don’t know absolutely nothing about the game. I played softball in high school and am familiar with the principle of hitting the ball as far as possible and running as many bases as one can. I did it for many years. But the strategy and statistics I don’t understand. A good friend walked me through it once, at a farm league game in Western Massachusetts, and I greatly enjoyed knowing that there was a big picture, but I’ve never made an effort to acquire that knowledge for myself.
So when the cartoonist asked me other other day if I wanted to go to Yankee Stadium I realized that, even in purely anthropological terms, I should have been on my New York to-do list, yet it wasn’t.
Nevertheless once the cartoonist lodged the idea in my head, I was excited to see what the experience was like.
I’m not a big one for organized sports but I enjoy the feeling of togetherness that big sporting spectacles provide. It’s like going to a mega church that lets you drink beer.
Commonality of purpose is a powerful thing.
And everybody at Yankee Stadium was happy, I noticed that too. At least they seemed to be. Catching balls that dropped into their seats. Dancing to YMCA. Proposing on the big screen in front of thousands of fans.
The cartoonist and I took our very expensive seats. One of the perks of his job. I mean, the seats were gaspingly, hilariously expensive. I had to ask the cartoonist a couple of times if the figure written on the ticket was correct. They were Metropolitan Opera-priced seats.
The cartoonist pointed out, rightly, that ball players are paid more than opera singers.
Once the game started, one of the first things that occurred to me was that, after seeing the Yankees pitcher doing a bang up job, would he be required to also go into bat? It would be a rare bird, I imagined, that would be good enough to both pitch and bat for the Yankees.
The cartoonist said no, he didn’t have to go into bat, there was another guy to do that for him—the designated hitter.
When I was married I used to joke that my husband was the designated worrier. When I had to do something that made me nervous, and where it was disadvantageous to be nervous, then I would outsource the worry aspect.
It was a joke, of course. It applied to things like making puff pastry. But lately I’ve realized that it served as a larger metaphor for our relationship.
My ex-husband is an Olympic level worrier. And when I was laboring under the illusion that he had my back, I worried a little less. It’s natural when you think somebody has your back. When you’re married, and have two incomes instead of one.
But now I am facing my future and being forced up against a wall of worry. Because I’m on my own now. And I’m in my fifties. And in the last couple of weeks I’ve been acquainted with the reality that I will be out of work at the end of this year.
It’s a frightening prospect. At my age. In this economy. It wakes me at hours when I should be asleep. And I have no designated worrier. Now I know for sure that my ex does not have my back, I must assume this burden on my own.
It’s a hard one. It feels perverse. Because if it wasn’t for that, I’d be okay right now. My heart is mending. I’m getting back to life.
But the worry is hard to block, all of the time.
So it was luxurious to sit in Yankee Stadium in seats that cost more than I spend on groceries in a month and enjoy the spectacle and the crowds and the happiness. Everybody did look happy, and I can’t imagine that all of the thousands of people there did not have sickness and pain and bills and grief to deal with on some level.
Maybe there were lots of people there, like me, who were taking a break from the worry. Enjoying the sunshine and the peanuts and he sight of ridiculously overpaid athletes almost earning their salary. Making a bread and circus spectacle for us.
I have to not panic. I know that. Panic is the enemy of good sense. Because the end of the year is both a short and a long way off. And this past year has taught me that anything can happen. Strange and marvelous and left of field things can switch our perspective in a moment. I know that because they’ve happened to me. I have trusted that things will be okay, and they have been. This can and does happen.
I can’t let the months in between be poisoned by something that may not be real. I cannot not enjoy a game and a communal experience and an overpriced beer.
That would be the waste of a very short life.