At last, baseball was played — very briefly, and very poorly — at Wrigley Field

When you’re unusually large and 50ish and standing in the street, bouncing grounders, soft liners and low-arcing popups to yourself off the wall of a ballpark — or of any other place, really — chances are, you’re not going to find many fellow humans wanting to stand there with you.

SHARE At last, baseball was played — very briefly, and very poorly — at Wrigley Field
Ballparks Remain Empty On What Would Have Been Baseball’s Opening Day

There’s nothing much doing outside Wrigley Field these days.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Call it an impulse, an inspiration, a wild hair.

“Dumb idea” might fit, too.

Whatever it was, it led me out of my house, where I’d had about all the bouncing off the walls I could take, and in search of … geez, this is kind of embarrassing.

In search of, well, a different wall to bounce off.

Specifically, the red brick wall beyond the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field. Right there between Gates 5 and 6 on Waveland Avenue, across from Chicago Fire Department Engine Co. 78 and just a few steps from the media entrance to the ballpark.

I didn’t bounce myself off that wall, though perhaps I should have. It wouldn’t have looked any more ridiculous than what I did do, but it would have been more entertaining for the few passersby on the street and whoever might have been looking (and laughing) through their apartment windows.

No, instead I brought a nice, new first baseman’s mitt, borrowed from a friend, and an old, rubber-coated ball, borrowed from the same friend — who’d heaved them at me from his front stoop with an “I don’t even want to know” sort of flair — and then I played catch.

Off that wall. By myself. Social distancing and all, right? At least, that’s what I told myself.

When you’re unusually large and 50ish and standing in the street, bouncing grounders, soft liners and low-arcing popups to yourself off the wall of a ballpark — or of any other place, really — chances are, you’re not going to find many fellow humans wanting to stand there with you.

But stand there I did. Bounce, bounce. Bend, stagger. I haven’t been on a baseball team since I was 12, but it was just as I’d remembered it. I still had the first step of an ocean freighter. My range could still be best summed up as, “Go ahead, you take this one.”

I figured I’d stay until a cop or a security guard told me to beat it or, more likely, until the ball squirted under my glove and rolled far enough away that I would be too lazy to retrieve it. (My friend would get over it, OK?)

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Not a great baseball player (or selfie taker).

For a couple of minutes, it was almost fun. Or more like a refreshing thing to do.

As a native son of the city, I recall few things more fun than playing “fastpitch” against schoolyard walls in the late 1970s and early ’80s. I don’t know about you, but when I pitched, I always aimed for the top of the spray-painted strike zone. Why I was so much better throwing off flat concrete or asphalt than a mound of dirt, I’ll never know.

Right up there with fastpitch was “pinners,” a game we played on Maplewood Ave. in West Rogers Park by bouncing a ball off the bottom step of a front stoop. Infielders took their positions near the curb, and outfielders in the street. A special thrill.

Playing catch with myself outside Wrigley felt something like that. Or would have if I were 40 years younger and surrounded by pals.

What brought me out to the ballpark? Several things, I suppose. Being bored. Missing sports. Hoping for an idea worth writing about. Feeling vulnerable on the job front, no doubt. I wanted inside that media entrance, that’s for sure.

Whatever it was, I don’t think I found what I was looking for. No cop or security guard came. The ball didn’t roll into a sewer inlet. It just got kind of weird. Probably as weird as it sounds.

I wondered how appropriate it was, too. Even being out there alone, what kind of an example was I setting?

Very soon, it felt like time to go. Besides, I had someplace to be.

Where else?

Home.

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