My wife Yahaira is learning baseball. She didn't take to football or hockey, but for some reason she likes baseball. Maybe it's because there are no cheerleaders -- or, now that we're here, maybe it's because a bunch of burly men are standing around grabbing their crotches...
Did you know I played shortstop for my junior varsity baseball team? One season I hit .315 and stole 18 bases. They named streets after me.
So my wife naturally wanted to find out all about this "national pastime," which she had previously thought was shopping.
Turns out that there are drawbacks to having a coed baseball buddy. For starters, I spend a lot of time explaining the game. It's like watching a movie with someone who always wants to know what's happening.
"When he squares around like that," I say, "it's called a bunt."
"Stands sideways in the batter's box."
"Like a cardboard box?"
"Um. Yes. What's for dinner?"
Yahaira has trouble with terminology. Mostly it's cute, but the other day my team was hitting in the bottom of the ninth when I had to run, literally, to the bathroom. Yahaira gave me the play-by-play from the living room.
"Okay, they are one to two [translation: one ball, two strikes]. The bat man tipped while trying to punt [the batter fouled a bunt attempt]. He swiped at a ground ball [swung at a pitch in the dirt]..."
Then she squealed at the sight of real, live action. "The punter hit the ball! ... and the ball is rolling ... and it's rolling on the grass ... it's a DOUBLE!"
I ran out to celebrate, only to find my team sulking in the dugout. The game was over.
I looked at Yahaira and said, "That's close, honey. It's called a 'double play.'"
On the other hand, my wife has raised some quality questions: Why do you call it a strike when they miss the ball? Why aren't batters paid according to their average? Why don't they ever cross their hearts after striking out?
One day she asked what ESPN stands for, and I was at a loss. We called our friend Big John, who is to sports trivia what Gandhi was to peace (only Big John weighs six or seven Gandhis).
Big John said, "I think it stands for International Sports something."
"And that's why it starts with an E?"
So it goes.
Yahaira questions everything, rules that I thought were part of the Scriptures. She feels, for instance, that nine innings is entirely too many, and anything after seven should be over-innings [extra innings]. She also thinks that pitchers should be rejected [ejected] for talking too much on the mountain [mound].
We also invest time on issues like how many trees die for baseball bats, why umpires are so plump, and, very briefly, once, why I didn't advance beyond junior varsity baseball.
So, yes, there is more talking than usual. When two guys watch baseball, you will hear grunting, shouting, and the occasional F-word. When a woman watches baseball, it's more like the Geneva Summit. And this is, to answer another question posed by my wife, why there are no female umpires: They'd not only call balls and strikes but have to discuss their reasons afterward.
Still, I've somehow grown used to her by my side. I no longer feel like a baseball potato; instead, I'm being intimate.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I came home to find Yahaira watching baseball with Big John! Don't get me wrong: I'd trust John with my car, let alone my wife, but I felt so ... used.
Yahaira shushed me because it was the "money pitch" [payoff pitch].
Shushed! Can you believe it? I stood in front of the screen and announced that I would not be watching baseball with Yahaira or Big John or anyone else until possibly never. In reply, they craned their necks to see around me. I slinked into the bedroom and pouted all the way through over-innings.
It has been two weeks since The Incident. Maybe I just need time before I can sit down beside her again. Watching by myself, I realize that baseball consists mainly of overpaid men waiting around for the pitcher to throw the damn ball. I long to once more discuss dating in the off-season and how pinstripes make a player look taller.
One thing is certain: When I finally do return, Yahaira had better (a) apologize and (b) tell me what the heck ESPN stands for.