Saturday, January 9, 2010

Timing's a Bitch, Isn't It?

When I was eleven or twelve, I was named to the Little League Baseball All-Star Team in my town. After the regular Little League season ends, the assembled group of All-Stars has a chance to play the All-Star Teams from the neighboring towns and their associated Little Leagues. The goal is obviously to win and keep on winning, and to eventually have a shot at reaching the Little League World Series. Our team had won a few games early in the summer, and we were gaining confidence as we neared a big showdown with a local rival.

Our Little League fields are about a minute and a half from my house, not very far at all, so naturally I was a few minutes late to practice the day before the game. I ran up to the field, and our coach was already hitting balls around to the team as a warm-up. He told me to join the outfielders, though I played infield, and I remember him saying something along the lines of "take it easy" for a little while at the beginning of practice.

When my turn came to receive a fly ball off of coach's bat, I didn't anticipate the sinking liner that was hit my way. I closed on it, and obviously neglected the notion of "taking it easy," as the idea of letting it fall in front of me never crossed my mind.

I made a sliding catch, impressing nobody since it was just the warm-up drill, and when I looked down I saw the small rock that had lodged itself into my knee. And, after a few seconds, my leg and sock were soaked with blood.

I had made it through maybe fifteen minutes of practice before I was forced to leave by that vindictive stone. I needed stitches to pull the skin on my knee back together, and my agility was severely limited at the big game the next day.

We lost the game, and I think it was close, though the final score is pretty inconsequential at this point. But that was the first time I can remember wondering how a single moment could be so significant, yet so dependent on alignment and perfect timing. I was late to practice that day, so I wondered if I would have fallen on that rock had I been on time. I wondered if I had been even a few seconds later to practice than I was, would I have been in the exact same spot in the outfield, or would coach have hit the same line drive that led to my slide which landed a jagged pebble in my knee?

I wonder sometimes about the moment when my body made its mistake and created this tumor. I'll never know exactly when it happened, but I still wonder about the timing of it, and if I was doing something physically stressful or otherwise that prompted my body to send the wrong signals and deviate from the recipe that had worked for so long and brought me so far. If I had been a few moments late for whatever it was that I was doing that day, would the mistake have even been made? Or was it inevitable that I would eventually screw up the formula, regardless of timing or my activities on that fateful day?

I understand that this is simply postulation, and my situation is what it is regardless of the answers, though I'll never find them anyway. But timing dictates so much in our lives; whether we catch the bus or train, whether a quarterback connects with his receiver on a touchdown pass, whether we cross paths with our soulmate or narrowly miss them on the street, never knowing how close we've been to things being so different.

I'm sure timing has worked in my favor as well, though I find it rather unfortunate that I happened to stumble upon a rock that ruined my summer baseball experience. And in a single moment, my body created and released a tumor that has landed me in my current situation.

I'm fairly convinced that I'm owed the good fortune of some favorable timing in the future, though I really don't think it's worth occupying my time worrying about it. But it is interesting to look back on things that have happened and realize how close they were to happening differently, or not at all. It's funny how the unfolding of a few short moments today can bear so strongly on our tomorrows.

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