Manny loves the gear. The cleats and shin pads, the balls and bats, clubs, sticks,
skis, poles, skates, goggles, hats, caps, gloves, snorkels, masks…
The school uniform—red shorts, red and white jersey—suits his lean body. In the
photo he kneels on a green field against a backdrop of flaming maples, a black
and white ball balanced on one bent leg. His curly hair is cropped close to his
head and he’s smiling.
Manny can run. On the basketball court he dashes back and forth at the edges,
cheering whenever anyone, on either side, makes two points. On the soccer field
he’s a wing, loping gracefully along the sideline, shouting encouragement to both
opponents and the teammates who pass the ball to anyone but him.
The parking lot is studded with station wagons and pickups. Parents sell cold
drinks and steamed dogs from a handmade concession stand. Umpires and
coaches arrive from their day jobs and the kids warm up on dusty diamonds
wearing shirts that say George Calef’s Fine Foods and Lenzi Construction and
The Christmas Dove and Landry’s Auto Salvage and Knight’s Garage.
Manny’s team takes the field. He jogs into deep left, turns and crouches, punches
his fist into his glove. He has it down: the stance, the determined squint, flex of
throwing arm, impatient pawing of one cleated foot. Innings pass. Manny lets a
pop fly drop. Manny lets a base hit become a home run. Manny runs to the
dugout. Manny strikes out. Manny tosses his bat with the disgust of a seasoned
player in a slump. Manny returns to the outfield. When the shortstop catches the
final ball, releasing his teammates to a rush for bicycles, Manny remains for a
minute, posed. As if for a baseball card.