Baseball on television lacked what was more fascinating than the game itself when I was young: the grounds crew at work. I could only dream how lovely it would be for my Little League games that on a rainy day the infield might start dry and groomed, even if all the boys were soaking on the uncovered dugout benches. And that red or brown sand so carefully raked, the baselines re-chalked, and the outfield mowed in artful squares or arcs! I figured that to be professional also meant you rarely had to deal with a bad hop on a grounder, or a rodent hole in the outfield, or a puddle to ruin the roll on your sharp grounder to short. They sure had it nice. But what I never thought--until it happened--was that my dopey little municipal field wasn't just screwing up my game, but jeopardizing my safety!
The perfect double play ball bounced toward me at shortstop. I readied my glove. The second baseman stretched out his and awaited my throw. The ball took another bounce, then another, then one more off the tiniest imperfect stone in front of me, and shot up into my right eye. All runners safe. I stared at my horrible inflamed face in the mirror of my dad's car, thinking, how do they expect us to become baseball stars if they aren't willing to groom the field?