There is a flourish and a certain swagger to the music pouring over the right field fence. It throbs incessantly while the horns spill out a hook that would not seem foreign at all in the streets of New Orleans.
Nyjer Morgan is locked in battle. He’s taken a few. He’s watched a few. He’s fouled a few. It’s likely now or never. The pitcher studies the ball like an archaeologist working on an hourly wage.
The cycle of stanzas are complete and have given way to shouts of encouragement and pounding drums. The BayStars faithful lean into “Mor-gan” in unison over and over like ecstatic children jumping on a king size bed of rhythm.
The chanting and clapping is not unlike the machinations of a jukebox. Before long, the needle drops, the drums beat out an intro and the melody composed for his at bats roars back to life. In moments, the horns are filling the ballpark again.
All the while there has been a woman standing in front of her seat a few rows beyond the screen behind Morgan. Whenever the shot widens, her excited face is beaming and she shouts with the passion of a young girl. In her hands is a giant poster of Tony Plush. It has a huge autograph across the front.
It’s easy to imagine that she is a grandmother. A matriarch. A survivor. A success in her own way. The wrinkles in her face are organized into a timeless smile, but she has clearly seen a lot in her lifetime.
Dreams of broken cities and the low thrum of bomber engines may still leave her shaken and sweaty. A tremor swimming through her house at night sits her bolt upright, but there is no fear right now. There is only baseball.
It is staggering to consider how much work has been done by the hands that passionately hold and shake the picture of her hero. The things made better over and over with perseverance and practice. She knows all about the mental side of baseball.
It is obvious that she has seen a whole lot of ballplayers in her day too. If she was a little girl when she first set eyes on a diamond, the list of brilliant talents she may have witnessed reads like a history book. She knows there is something special about this one too. She is happy like a kid to have met him.
The camera focuses in on the action. A final pitch glides toward Morgan. He watches it go by like a bus with the wrong destination flickering above the windshield. A grin creeps across his face as he heads toward first base. After arriving at the bag, he flashes a big smile and a “T” to the fans.
A few pitches later he is dusting himself off at second while the catcher mutters and squats back behind the plate. It’s time for another happy “T” before he takes his lead and locks in again. When the crack of the bat sends a single whizzing through the infield, he is off to the races.
There’s a stop sign at third, but there’s a hunch in his gut too. Apologies and explanations can be made later. He deftly turns the corner and heads for home. Every fan is on their feet. He gathers another layer of dust sliding in ahead of the throw. The Yokohama crowd roars approval.
As he heads to the dugout in a flurry of high fives, he flashes a last “T” to the fans near home plate. The camera catches a glimpse of the woman in the stands. She is utterly elated. Age and time are mere abstracts in a moment of pure joy. This is why Nyjer Morgan plays baseball.
Yakyu Night Owl is actually a person named Dave. He covers Nippon Professional Baseball and the Australian Baseball League for Call to the Pen. He also blogs and writes music. Follow him @yakyunightowl.
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