FOLLOW THE FLIGHT OF THE BALL. Follow it as it arcs into the clear, bright cerulean sky, shot through with perfection, cloudless, without end. Remember the crack that sent the ball into the air. Remember the first glimpse of the field as you emerged from the tunnel to take your seats, how you silently remarked that it still had the same power, this sight, to take your breath as it did when you first saw it, when you were a child, only then it was the day-glo indoor phosphorescence of the carpet at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. You have seen more beautiful parks since, of course, but on that long ago afternoon, the field in its dimensions, in the manner in which the entire surface appeared elevated, otherworldly, dreamlike, it seemed to your immature sensibilities the most perfect and awesome picture imaginable. Many afternoons have passed since that one, and you have seen many wondrous things. You have seen several oceans, and you have seen the Grand Canyon, the Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower, the Rocky Mountains, and you have seen the birth of your child – all tremendous and beautiful sights to behold – but have any stolen your breath in the same way? And every time you enter a ballpark, from great domed megaliths to tiny and rickety minor league diamonds, the moment you emerge from the concourse and suddenly behold the field below the stands, you are reminded of that afternoon, of that first moment, when a green diamond unrolled below you and a giant bowl rose around and above you, and the murmuring sound of thirty or forty thousand people talking and yelling and finding their seats reached your ears in a rush, as though a lid had been removed, releasing the clamour stored within. And so every team that charges from the dugout to take the field does so in imitation of those Expos, leaping across the plastic carpet below the plastic bag roof of the Big O, for they were the first baseball team, according to your personal chronology.
Follow the flight of the ball, against the backdrop of the great theatre’s bowl, filled to capacity with women and men and children, many of whom are experiencing this collective rejoicing for the first time, others for the thousandth. Catch your breath as they do, following the flight of the ball, performing imprecise calculations as to whether it will fall on this side of the fence or that, whether fair or foul. And as it descends follow it still, keeping your eyes fixed firmly on that tiny orb, and be safe in the knowledge that whether a long strike or a three run home run, there will be a hundred or a thousand or a million to follow, on days just like this: warm and long and vacant. Lazy days streaked with slowly arcing, somnambulant fly balls. But let your heart fall ever so incrementally, too, for this fly ball is but one and is unique, and shall never be seen again, and each one like it brings you intractably closer to the final out.