Baseball on the Beach

My sister Maya is in town this week with her two kids, Rhone and Solange. Rhone is 9 and highly active and athletic, and Solange is 12 years old and brilliant. I remember when both of them were born. I remember both of them when they couldn’t speak a word. It’s extraordinary to watch them grow up so fast.

It just doesn’t feel that long ago (even though it has been seven years) that I went out for a visit to San Francisco to see Maya and my brother-in-law, Kevin, and saw Rhone running around the house in his diaper, chasing after a dog. I watched as he ran through the kitchen, stopped in place, vomited on the floor, stared at it for a moment, then continued to run forward another 20 feet or so and smash his body straight into a wall, head-first, then fell on his back on the floor and start to cry.

He’s gonna be a damn good football player, I thought at the time.

Yesterday at Indian Wells beach in Amagansett, Rhone and I played a game of catch. I started out with low expectations. My sister was bragging about Rhone’s baseball skills, but of course I had to see them for myself (and, of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if she was exaggerating). I gave Rhone a toss, very lightly. He snapped the ball out of the air like it was nothing, then instantaneously threw it back at me at full speed. It hit my mitt with that satisfying sound of ball hitting leather.

I was a bit dumbfounded by his throw and how fast he got it back to me. “Whoa,” I said.

I threw the ball back a bit harder, and again he snapped it out of the air and fired it back.

Wow. My nephew can play baseball. This is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me, I thought.

We started throwing the ball back and fourth in near silence. Each turn, I threw it progressively harder at him, the whole time asking him if it was too fast and the whole time him telling me that it wasn’t and he could handle it.

“Do you know how to pitch?”

“Sure,” Rhone said.

He wound up, and with near perfect mechanics threw a strike.

“Is that the fastest you can throw?”

“No.”

“Throw it as hard as you can. Show me your fastball.”

“Okay.”

A small part of me was a little scared when he wound up and fired. The ball came in with a nice whip to it and smacked into my glove. “STRIKE!” I heard behind me. It was my dad, who had snuck up behind me to umpire.

I threw it back to Rhone, who then pitched to four imaginary batters. He struck out three of them and walked one.

I will hold onto this image. My nephew throwing strikes to me at the beach, his grandfather calling strikes, and every once in a while I’d hear Kevin, his dad, who has taught this kid everything he knows when it comes to baseball and was donning a San Francisco Giants hat, call out to him, “Hey, Rhone, step into it a little more, don’t forget your mechanics,” to which Rhone would nod his head and do so.

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