In the wake of rookie Joc Pederson’s first big league hit, one ex-jock is reminded of something equally momentous. What follows is a reminiscence.
The story begins, as similar tales so often do, in the summer of the thirteenth year. A fresh-faced lad with sun-kissed cheeks and skin the texture of smooth jazz, I stood manning my position at shortstop when suddenly, as if called upon by the forces of misapplied punition, a keen and throbbing discomfort suddenly announced itself in the region of my left cheekbone.
With timid fingertips and fearful spirit I examined the affected area, and to my great horror the sensation of a sharp, stabbing pain accompanied the discovery of a small, knotty protuberance. What manner of menace is this, I wondered, even as I assumed the crouch of a heads-up shortstop, that should spoil a sun-kissed cheek whose texture, heretofore, has been of smooth jazz?
Until this moment I had never known such a blemish, such a blight, and a painful one to boot! Had an Amazonian beetle somehow wedged itself beneath the topmost layer of my face, there to do damage to the thirteenth year of my existence by inflicting torment both physical and emotional? For not only did the protuberance throb, as if the beetle’s own pulse were powered by the very pain it administered, but surely it had cast my otherwise sun-kissed and smooth-jazzed visage in the wretched cloak of grotesquerie!
I immediately grimaced, magnifying the disfigurement by twisting a once jazz-kissed face into a gnarl of angst and repulsiveness. For indeed, this foul deformation would surely undo my incipient love life by repelling the likes of Connie D’Antoni and Suzi Colletti! Granted, I didn’t know a Connie D’Antoni or a Suzi Colletti, but the fact remained that stories like this always included a Connie D’Antoni or a Suzi Colletti, lost and lamented first loves.
At half-inning’s end I sprinted to the dugout, where my coach, whom I called Coach, could examine the nodule and promptly summon emergency personnel. There, he took a look at my previously Chuck Mangione’d face and declared, “Young man, what you’ve got there is one big league zit!”
My eyes, and indeed the entirety of my face, immediately brightened.
“A big league zit?!” exclaimed I, quick of breath and heartbeat.
“Yes,” Coach replied. “A big league zit!”
Speechless, I stood like an acned statue and marveled at the wonder of it all. I had certainly heard of zits, and had even enjoyed second-hand experience with zits, having watched my older sister dig a sizable hole in her left cheek in efforts to excavate a particularly stubborn pimple just prior to the junior prom. (She failed.) But no, I had never possessed my own personal zit, nor even dreamt of it! Still, here I was now, boasting a blemish of Ruthian caliber and Reeseian size.
It did seem strange, though. I had watched numerous games on my family’s Magnavox TV, and not once had I seen a zit on a big league player. They were all grown men – even the second basemen! So why, I wondered, had Coach classified my own zit, in the taxonomy of pimples, as major league?
Whatever the answer, my teammates appeared to share the assessment. Slack of jaw and wide of eye, they gathered ’round to gawk at my splendid blemish, all the while issuing the appropriate oohs and ahs and holy camolies. From his clipboard, then, Coach grabbed a ballpoint pen and, smiling proudly, furnished it to me. Owing to the fact that I could not actually see the blemish, I asked Coach, as well as my teammates, to do the honors.
With steady hand and beaming visage, Coach wrote the date, the time and the words “First Big League Zit!!!!!” on my big league zit, punctuating the sentiment with the suitable exclamation. My teammates, each with joy in his eyes, then signed it, appending commentary such as “You’re having a wonderful summer!” and “See you next year, zit; you’re huge!”
The zit is gone now, lost to the sands of time, yet I am reminded each day of that glorious time in my life. For I have never washed the signatures from my countenance, and now a new pimple has arrived to replace the old one.
Time is a flat circle, or perhaps a fat pimple.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.