Repairing Her Loss: A Little Girl Finds Solace in Baseball

My ex-wife is mad at me.

I don't mind this time.

It started with the day after Christmas when my Mom told me about a movie called "The Perfect Game." (How this was released in theaters 2010 without me ever hearing of it is beyond me.) Luckily, my sister left her DVD at my brother's house. My brother happens to live around the block from Mom, and his wife was more than happy to drop the DVD off to me. Nice how things work out.

So I watched the movie. And I loved it. Or, I guess, lofed it.

Based on a true story, the film takes place in 1957, centering on a group of nine kids from Monterrey, Mexico, with dreams of playing a game they had only heard about via radio broadcasts. They adopt a coach, César Faz, who had returned to Monterrey after having his own dreams of playing in the majors squashed by the St. Louis Cardinals. (In real life, his prior claim to sandlot fame was coaching a Mexican amateur team.)

As noted here, Faz leads his kids to an improbable run to the Little League World Series:

The Monterrey Industrials, as they were called, came to the United States with three-day visas, crossing the border on foot, expecting to play, and lose, a single game in McAllen, Texas. They won. Then they won the next game, and the one after that, and so on, sweeping through regional and state tournaments.

Their visas expired, and they would have been deported if not for the intervention of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. They were skinny and undersized; they lacked money for food; they became exhausted by a schedule that didn’t always permit their accustomed siestas.

They arrived in Williamsport, PA, to play for a title that no non-American team had ever won. Even then, they didn’t understand what the championship really was. Their La Mesa, CA, opponents loomed an average of five inches above them and outweighed them by an average of almost 30 pounds.

I suggest watching the movie if you want to know the rest (that is, if you haven’t figured the ending out by now.)

***

So where does my ex-wife fit in to this heartwarming tale of rags-to-riches? Instead of leaving the DVD at my Mom’s house, I decided to borrow it, trusting that my sister would not mind whatsoever (I was correct.)

My ex-wife Rocio, left a widow four years ago after her second husband was involved in a fatal work accident, has an 8-year old daughter named Maya. I just knew that Maya, though not raised a baseball fan, would love this movie. (I was correct.)

What I didn’t realize was how much.

Maya watched "The Perfect Game" the next night, too. And the next. And the next. Weekend came, and my sister asked about her movie. I told her I hadn’t been able to retrieve it yet. She laughed. "If she likes it so much, tell her she can have it." Maya was slightly thrilled by the news.

A couple of weeks later, my phone rang. It was Maya. "I got a new baseball glove. Will you play catch with me?" I was at her house in seconds. (It helps that I live two blocks away.) Maya, who already demonstrates a few skills on the soccer field, impressed me with her arm and glove.

This past Sunday, she called me up.

"Are you working?"

"No", I lied. "What’s up?"

"I have a bat now. Will you pitch to me?"

"Depends. Will you watch Moneyball with me?"

"What is that?"

"A baseball movie. You’ll love it."

"OK!"

(She didn’t love it.)

But Maya loved to hit. At first, she was chopping at everything. "You’re throwing it too low!" Yeah, it’s my fault. But once I got her to plant her feet correctly, keep her eye on the ball, and swing level, she was spraying the ball to all fields. Or to all areas of the backyard anyway.

"All she cares about is baseball", says Rocio. "Even at soccer practice she finds things to throw. And she takes that glove everywhere."

My ex-wife only pretends to be upset with me for bringing that "damn movie" to her house and introducing a whole new world to her precious Maya. Whatever makes her happy, she says.

***

"I see great things in baseball. It's our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us."

-Susan Sarandon, quoting Walt Whitman, in Bull Durham

Bored with Moneyball, Maya proceeded to the kitchen Sunday night to pitch to herself. Whack. Whack. Whack. Somehow through all the whacking, nothing was broken.

Baseball may never heal what is broken in Maya’s life, namely her heart. But if it can slowly mend it one pitch or one swing at a time, I’d say that’s a good start.

Perfect, even.

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