Life Without Baseball

I suppose the wretched baseball devil from the hollow depths of hell wouldn’t have had it any other way. Why would he stop beating me with his wooden bats and extra inning games now? I was only three games away from a life without baseball, and yet the notion couldn’t have felt further away from reality. The last series of the season was to be played in Gary, Indiana – a thirty hour bus trip from El Paso. Thirty. Hours. So basically that meant baseball wasn’t ending in three games. It was more like three years by the time Anthony would be able to go and come back from the damn mid-west. So we did what all rational adults would do in an instance like this, and faked a grandparent’s death. Anthony went to his manager with a heavy heart and said it was a sudden loss and he needed to go back to Maine with his girlfriend. We thought it was real masterful. Who could refuse someone the need to stand by their grandmother’s side and say their last goodbyes? The baseball devil, that’s who. His manager said “Alrighty. You can go, but we’re freezing your contract and you won’t be able to play or be picked up by anyone else ever again.” Amazingly, grandmother was resurrected and Anthony stayed for the horrendous last trip while I sat at home anxiously waiting.

Eventually, Anthony did make it home, but not without our usual encounters with trouble. The trip back to El Paso took a little longer than expected thanks to El Paso’s exquisite planning. With only one hired bus driver, he had to stop every twelve hours to sleep for seven before getting back on the road again. It took the team over thirty-six hours to get back to the Motel 6. Well, what was left of the team. Most of the players and coaches booked flights back home from Indiana, but we were clearly too poor to pay for a ticket out of Podunk, America so the sleeper-bus was Anthony’s only option. Then, since the trip back took a little longer than expected, the motel cleared out all of Anthony’s clothes and belongings from his room and jammed it all into trash bags to make room for other guests. Unshowered and covered in sleeper-bus grime, he just demanded his things and tossed it all into the back of his trusty Buick. Four hours separated us, finally, from a life of normalcy and togetherness.

When Anthony came home and carefully shared his insight about Mexican Winter baseball leagues, I pretended that I didn’t know what he was implying. I was going to make him squirm and suffer while he tried to tell me that yet again he wanted to go play baseball instead of getting a full-time job. So he danced around the facts for a few days before finally sharing that he had made some connections who were trying to get him a Winter-ball job. He said he didn’t want to start working  a job before knowing if he was leaving, and that it could be at any time, so he should just sit around and wait to hear. While I worked. Full-time. And paid the bills. Because the 700 dollars he had just made last month after tax had really given us the buffer we needed for him to sit around and play Madden all day. Needless to say, I fumed and fought before finally agreeing that he would at least search and apply for jobs while waiting to hear from no one in particular from Mexico.

Two months went by and no one had called. Anthony finally said that if they didn’t ask him to play by a certain date, then he was hanging up his cleats for good and focusing on a career outside of baseball. I couldn’t argue with that, and I cringed at the sound of his cell phone ringing every day until that date. It came and went, and Anthony officially gave up the journey to make it in baseball. He very conveniently got called shortly after for a phone interview with Citi Bank, and then a follow-up live interview which he thought went really well. I was so excited for his chance to be on a legit, American payroll and he seemed to really be thrilled with the idea as well. It would be the first job in corporate America for him, so it was a great opportunity to gain the experience and get his feet wet for whatever was ahead in his future. A great resume-builder, if you will. Then came the call.

Mexico decided to stir up my life and offer him a winter job somewhere I had never heard of. He broke the news to me after work one day, and I immediately flew off the handle. I couldn’t even possibly comprehend why he was even considering it or bringing it up to me. We had discussed the plan with baseball, and the opportunity had passed. I reiterated that the plan to move to Arizona was to build our new lives together. Baseball was never meant to be a part of it, and I didn’t sign up to leave family and friends behind just to live alone while he chased Puff the Magic Dragon and his unrealistic pipe dream. He tried to explain that his decision wasn’t made, but I just didn’t believe he’d ever turn down this “one last shot.” He left me at our apartment while he went to teach a hitting lesson, and I did something more desperate than I’d ever done before. I called Mama D. Surely my own parents would tell me to let him go, and to move on with my life that had been on hold for so long so I avoided that conversation all together. Instead I sought advice from the world’s biggest baseball and Anthony fan that ever lived – not my finest moment looking back on it now.

She picked up the phone and I just started crying. I think I asked her how to deal with her son. I said I couldn’t take the roller coaster of all the changing decisions all of the time and how selfish it was to never be considered. Mama D remained calm in her usual jesus-takes-care-of-everything way and just said I had to let him make the decision for himself. While I knew this to be true, I started regretting not calling a friend or my parents who would have bashed him for his inconsiderate ways. She told me that we could visit him together if he chose to go play and that she knew he had been raised to be a little… spoiled. Anthony D’Alfonso should come with a tattoo on his forehead that says “spoiled,” but I didn’t curse her for stating the obvious. Instead, I thanked for for listening to me and sat in silence for awhile. Surprisingly, something – and I don’t know what – from that phone call resonated with me. I knew that in my own way I was being selfish too, always hoping he’d choose the way of life I imagined for myself and abandon his own ways. One of us was always going to have to sacrifice for the other and in that moment, I truly realized that. I didn’t accept it, but I did realize it.

Still angry from being put in the position I was in, I ignored the texts Anthony was sending me. He was telling me how much he loved me and that he couldn’t imagine a life without me in it. I found that funny since 85% of the time I wasn’t in it because he was off playing baseball somewhere, but I let my stubbornness over-rule my urge to make that jab. Then he just called me. He said I was the most important thing in his life and that he wouldn’t risk losing me to baseball. Shortly after he left for his lesson, Citi Bank called to offer him the job he applied for and he was going to accept it and stay in Tucson. I found it easy at that point to tell him that he needed to make the right choice for himself, but in my heart I actually did mean it. I didn’t want to make anyone’s life miserable and I made him promise this was a decision that he wanted for himself. He told me it was. When he finally got home he talked about how excited he was to have the opportunity for this job and that he wanted to finish his degree and work on us and our life. He shared that the father of the boy he was teaching lessons to that night was an ex-NFL player who had been injured in his first year of play. In the blink of an eye, his dream had been ripped away from him and he was forced to focus on an alternative life. Anthony said that he felt as though this man was placed in his life at that very moment for a reason, and that it made his decision clearer and easier. Like a girl in love does, I believed it.

He called Citi Bank the next day and accepted the position. He was set to start training in a couple of weeks, and I felt myself relax mentally and physically for the first time in a long time. Mama D texted me about a week later and said it sounded like he made the right decision. I knew she didn’t believe that, and in my heart I’m not sure I believed it either.

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