He looks like a ball player now—broad shoulders, high cheekbones, and a detached calm I’ve never mastered. He’s 6’4, but wearing cleats and standing on that mound of clay, 1,500 people screaming his name, he’s larger than life.
His brother won a state title seven years earlier. His father won it all in ’69.
And now it’s his turn.
It’s the Florida high school baseball Final Four, and my baby brother is all grown up. And at that moment, I want nothing more than to be him.
* * *
Okay, you say. That’s fine.
A little strange, but whatever.
But why are you writing this here? In your final column, space reserved for waxing sentimental about four years of working for Harvard’s only student daily?
Why are we 2,000 miles away, at a high school game in a minor league stadium, watching a kid in baggy pants and a flat-brimmed cap?
* * *
Because that’s where this all started, at that very field—Ed Smith Stadium, spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds—with those same red-capped kids.
It was a decade ago, almost to the day, late May of 1995, and Key West High School had just won its eighth state title in front of 2,500 fans, including a little 11-year-old girl with braces and stringy blonde hair.
The air was thick with Florida heat and the smell of Budweiser and Cuban cigars, but a chill ran down my skinny little spine when I watched those boys pile onto each other, a writhing mass of heroic, euphoric red, and on that day I fell in love.