Two Poems, Big Wins

Now that the Mets are in the middle of a seventeen-game stretch with no days off, I better not get behind in my poem count.

I owe two today, so here are two bad poems about trying to play baseball as a kid when you’re not very good at it.

Also, the Mets keep killing it. Walker hit his ninth homer in April last night, which ties a Mets club record. And my dad and I are going to Citi Field for a game against the Braves next Monday. That’ll be my first poem and post from the stadium.


Weak Arm


I’m in left field, and the batter smacks

a fly ball that goes up above the brim

of my hat, which is the tell-tale sign

to run back, back toward the wall,

and the ball lands ten steps behind me

and I haven’t got an arm like Mike does

so I flip it to him and he hurls the ball in

to the cutoff. A run scores,

and in the dugout the kids jeer me

for not making the throw myself,

and I want to tell them that I just don’t

have the stuff that they do

but instead I sit alone on the bench

and wait until the game is done,

picking at the leather laces of my mitt.

And my brother picks me up

when the game ends, and the big lights

shut off, the scoreboard flickers

and dims, and while his engine idles

and he waits, I count some stars

while I shuffle across the lot

to the sound of little kids biking home.



Wild Pitch


I’m standing in the batter’s box

with wobbly knees, helmet clamped on

which makes my heartbeat pound in my ears

and the pitch comes in at my head and I duck

but clank! the ball hits off my bat anyway

and rolls fair and the catcher throws to first

and I’m out. The ump won’t toss the pitcher

for headhunting and I’m sitting in the dirt,

tears in my eyes, wondering why

I’m out for ducking, for saving my own head,

but them’s the rules of the game,

and as the other team runs off the field

in victory, I sit in the damp clay.

Bats Boom

Mets 5, Phillies 2. Quadruple homers! We got a #DudaSmash from Luke (his first of the season), one from Neil Walker, and two from The Captain. Cespedes also pulled off a stand-up triple and scored a run, and Thor was as dominant as ever. The bats are waking up for spring!


The Quitter


I was eight or nine, taking ground balls

outside my school in the hot sun,

and a bad hop smacked me in the jaw

and knocked me down, so I took a seat


on the bench. As soon as my father pulled up

in his truck, I ran and climbed in and he asked

what I was doing, and I said I wanted to quit,

showing him the red splotch that would grow


into a bruise, and he shook his head

and said nothing as we drove home.

Three years later, after my big league hero

broke records and my favorite team


was in the playoffs, I sat in as catcher

for the junior high team and tried,

for three innings, to snap up fastballs

from a kid who could hurl like a pro,


but each hit to the chest or mask,

each dropped ball, each failed throw

to second to get the runner out made me sweat

and shake. Soon, the coach benched me,


and after the game I asked how I was doing

and he asked if I wanted him to be nice

or to be honest, and he was honest,

and the other kids ignored me,


and I quit again. My father always said

not to be afraid of the ball, but the dull hot pain

of each thump was like a deadening punch

a bully would deliver. And next season,


about to go into high school,

I went to tell him that I’d never play again

but he gave me a mask, a chest pad,

and a pair of black, steel-toed cleats.


He taught me how to call balls and strikes,

how a curveball can paint the black edge

of the plate, how you listen for the click of the bat

to call a foul-tip, how to use all of your senses.


All that summer, we worked

as a two-man team for the little leagues,

and he’d watch from second base

with his chin raised and his hands on his knees


when he knew I was calling a fair game.

First Win

Mets 2, Royals 0. First win of the season, won by the first Mets home run of the season by second baseman Neil Walker. Starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, a.k.a. Thor, dominated with a nine-strikeout shutout and was unfazed by close calls and tight jams. But as one announcer called him a “man-child,” another responded, “That’s no man-child, Gary. That’s Thor.”


That’s No Man-Child, Gary, That’s Thor


Twenty-three, fresh-faced out of Texas, barely a rookie

and he’s head hunting in the World Series,

his hammer a hundred mile-an-hour fastball

with that quick silvery flick that tails right in

to the framed catcher’s mitt. Wham.

Over and over, K after K, and something

just ain’t fair about this grotesque demigod

of a pitcher, a thick blonde whip of an ape

that mastered one of the few traits that sets us apart

from the rest: the ability to throw.

This guy could take out Zeus’s eagle

with a pebble thrown from the underworld.

The batter up next thinks he’s hot stuff

so he crowds the plate, waggles his bat,

then hits the dirt when one zings past his chin,

and it’s a game of who’s crazier than who—

crazy to throw so willfully wild,

or crazy to stand back up for the next one.