I visited my friend Johnny Red Sox yesterday afternoon. John lives between York and East End on the upper east side, which is, in the words on my late father, "the ass-end of the world." (When my brother lived in Brooklyn, Pop told him it was "the ass-end of the planet." Ben said, "Don't you mean the ass-end of New York?" And Dad replied testily, "You know what I mean." As if there was a difference.) John I and trooped back west to Central Park. It was brisk and windy but very nice in the sun. Most of the grassy areas were roped-off, but eventually we found a spot to have our first catch of the year.
A father and son were there throwing a ball around. Shortly thereafter, two French kids--maybe ten and seven, respectively--showed up with mitts and an old ball. The older one was serious-minded. The younger kid was bored. Neither instinctively knew how to catch the ball, but the older one was trying very hard. I gave him a head-nod at one point, and you could tell he was thrilled by the gesture.
They moved around nervously as the ball came their way and dropped more than they caught. The younger kid kept catching the ball accidently with his bare hand. Nothing about the catch seemed fun for him. But the older kid was insistent. I caught glimpses of what they were doing as John and I threw the ball back-and-forth. I thought about helping them out but didn't and got caught up in conversation with John.
When we took a break, I noticed that the two kids had put their gloves down and were now kicking a soccer ball around. Ah, the International version of having a catch. The little one was zipping around the dirt, enthused. The older one was still serious, but working on some fancy kicking moves. When he booted a ball past the little kid he issued an immediate, "Pardon" (my bad).
There was one infield that was open to the public and we saw two high school kids hitting grounders to each other. One stood at home plate with a mitt on one hand and a bat in the other. He dropped the ball from his glove, and smacked a grounder.
When he got back to John's crib, the last inning of the Yankee game was on and we watched the highly-touted Jose Tabata hit. Did you guys catch that? It was an impressive at-bat. He looked at fastball outside for a ball, swung through a breaking pitch and then was jammed by a fastball that was in on his fists. He took the next pitch outside for a ball, and then looked at another fastball in on his hands, this time for a ball. (I don't recall but he may have also fouled off a pitch or two.) The next pitch was a fastball on the outside part of the plate. Tabata lined it over the right field fence for a home run.
SI.com's Bryan Smith was at the game and e-mailed me later. "Jose Tabata is going to be a star. Love the body on that kid."