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Running on empty, lead still intact

Lance Pugh

When I was kid playing Little League, I used to dread — the prospect of my parents coming to view my fumbling attempts to throw — a strike or field a fly-ball. I was already well scripted at the fine — art of self-sabotage, with a mind full of counterproductive voices predicting — spastic lurching, gross mistiming and ball-fanning failure. When my Mom — arrived, pressure from the stand rose to a steady hiss, bumping to a roar — every time I moved, which, you will soon come to realize, was not very — often.

The day I remember best pitted us, the Mission Bay Pirates, — against the Mission Bay Cardinals, whose pitcher was clearly 7 feet tall — and threw a curve ball that made you jump back just before it arched over — the plate for a perfect call strike, each and every time.

With two jump-backs and two strikes against me I figured — it was time to at least take a swing at the ball, so I held my stance — and drove a line drive that should have been good for at least a triple. — As yet, however, I have not relayed to you just how slow I was running — the bases. Let's face it: I was a tragically slow fat butterball who got — winded running out to the pitcher's mound. Running the bases was, by comparison, — a marathon.

With that lucky crack of the bat my jaw dropped while — I stood frozen as the crowd admonished me to move. I took off for first — base like a bowl of goldfish bound for the carnival, sloshing and slurping, — yet generally not going anywhere fast. I was about a third of the way — there when I heard my mother shout: "Get the lead out of your ass!" While — simultaneously diminished and driven, I increased my lope and, while rounding — the bag, tripped and created a crater of dust and confusion, landing with — an impact reminiscent to one that had, during the Cretaceous-Tertiary — boundary, eliminated many species of life on Earth.

I looked up to see the outfielder step on his glove, going — down like a duffle bag of bats, turning my sure triple into an inside-the-ballpark — homerun. Now the pressure was on. I scrambled to my feet and headed back — to first base - no, on to second base as the bleachers blathered with — a host of cries for me to get moving. Above all this din was the Valkyrie — beseechment of Mom, whose vocals capped the cacophony of the crowd with — more remarks about the reticence of my backside to round the bases.

Freshly invigorated I huffed, puffed, wheezed and wheeled — myself around second base, there to notice that the outfielder had recovered — his poise and stood ready to laser launch a frozen rope to third base, — there to tag my sorry, slow ass out. I threw things in reverse, which, — I must say, is something in which I excel, and sputtered, leaped and slid — back to second under the watchful gaze of an umpire. I saw his thumb twitch — and dreaded the looming call, when, perhaps, his girth bonded with my — plump attempt and, after a couple seconds of pregnant pause, called me — safe. I was elated, though turning a game-wining hit into a double didn't — go well in the bleachers.

The next batter was the fastest runner I'd ever seen. — He spanked the ball into deep right and started howling toward first base — like a cruise missile. I jumped off of second and dug deeply for third, — all the while looking at the base coach who was mimicking a Dutch windmill — propelling me toward home. What was this guy thinking? I was sucking dust — as I rounded third about 10 feet in front of the last batter, who I remember — now only as Jos? Greyhound. He slowed down to a walk as I blasted toward — home, desperate to arrive before the sure-to-come tag. It was only due — to an overthrown ball that I made it with my twin to cross the plate. — Bingo, we won.

Having lived with this memory nearly my entire life, it — now comes as an inspiration to me, when refueling at a gas station, that — they eventually figured out how to get the lead out of their gas. I couldn't.

Lance was last seen chasing flies with his mitt in his — front yard. Unfortunately, he was not chasing fly balls. Give him a buzz — at lance@journalist.com.