Where I grew up we never asked, “Do you want to have a catch?” We said instead, “Do you want to play catch?” Regardless of how the question was asked, for boys, and perhaps some girls, the invitation and implication seem universal. Usually two boys (even if one is enjoying his second childhood) , ball gloves in one hand, a white, though often scuffed hardball in the other, stand facing each other and begin the simple yet mind-boggling, life-changing ritual of playing catch.
It’s the simple question Ray Kinsella posed to his father, John, in the Field of Dreams, arguably the best baseball movie ever made. They were estranged, in fact, John passed away before they were able to reconcile their differences. Only through the magic of the Field, were they given a second chance. The beauty of this male rite is that it’s often best enjoyed when little or nothing is spoken. Though words typically are few in number—“nice catch”, or “my bad” may most frequently be uttered—volumes are communicated.
The “pill” is simply a cork core, covered with two layers of rubber, wrapped with over one hundred fifty yards of wool and poly-cotton yarn, held together by two figure eight pieces of Holstein cowhide, hand- sewn with one hundred and eight stitches using eighty-eight inches of waxed red thread. Horsehide covered the ball until the mid-1970’s when cows outnumbered horses, but little else has changed with this five ounce object of obsession.
Six decades ago, my dad, with his flat-faced, odd-looking three-fingered glove, started tossing the baseball to me in an alfalfa field. Three decades ago, I began the same ceremony with my sons on a neatly manicured lawn. To this day, when together, we still seem to find a reason to toss something back and forth. Today I perform this sacrament with grandchildren, each with varying degrees of skill and interest. Yet I can’t imagine not doing it! It usually occurs spontaneously, though sometimes requires some planning and preparation including finding the gloves and ball and a decent piece of ground, but the true beauty is that catch can break out anytime, anywhere! Backyards, streets, playgrounds, swimming pools, airports, living rooms, it doesn’t matter—I defy you to find a place where a game of catch can’t be celebrated!
And so it continues. Those of you who have or are currently imbibing in this art form, I implore you to never stop! If you’ve quit, begin again, there is no age limit! Buy a glove if your mom threw yours out or sold it at a yard sale when you went to college. Find a baseball, Major League Baseball uses over 600,000 per season alone. There’s always going to be someone around who is dying to play catch as much as you are. The unexplainable satisfaction achieved doesn’t have to be understood, just enjoyed.