That’s because I have spent a large portion of the summer playing against them, and they are unbelievably good.
OK, I have been playing against the imaginary Cleveland Indians.
But I am telling you, they win every time.
My grandson, Zane, got me doing it. He’s five. And he loves baseball like no kid I’ve ever known at that age. And the Indians are his team. He watches the night games until he falls asleep beside his dad on the couch. In the morning, he recalls all the details of what happened while he was awake and demands to know what happened afterward, especially who won.
It is all very charming and, to me, fascinating. (Here’s something from just last week: “Who are the Indians playing tonight,” he asked. “The Twins,” I said. “Do they have just two players,” he asked. I didn’t laugh, but it killed me.)
When he’s not watching baseball, he’s playing — if he can. That’s where I come in.
When I arrive at home, if Zane is there it doesn’t matter how hard or how long I was working while I was gone, he greets me at the door asking “Do you want to play baseball?”
And because, along with his brother, he is one of the cutest kids ever, of course I have to say yes.
I had not played catch for more than 50 years, but this summer I play catch every time he visits. Which is pretty often.
The boy really has an arm on him, too. Char had to buy me a baseball mitt before I got a finger broken by fastball thrown by a pre-schooler.
And after we play catch for a while, he wants to play “real baseball.” So we have acquired a set of bases, four baseballs and a little metal bat.
Then just the two of us play baseball. Zane is the Indians. And I am whatever team the real Indians are playing that day (for short, Zane calls all of the opponents “the bads.”)
Zane makes the rules for our two-man games. And they are always changing in the Indians’ favor.
Last week alone I remember him making an unassisted triple play; scoring two runs by rounding the bases twice on an especially long hit while I was chasing it down in the neighbors’ yard; and stealing second, third and home while I walked back to the pitcher’s mound after a close play at first (many of our plays are close but he can always show me why he is safe and I am out).
Sometimes, though, I can hold him to a series of singles. Which means we have to use imaginary runners. And they usually involve his favorite Indians player, Carlos Santana. In a charming twist, our imaginary Carlos Santana is usually linked to someone in his family. Here’s an example from one recent game in which the Indians — Zane — had gotten four straight hits:
“Who just scored,” I ask.
“Carlos Santana Zane,” he tells me.
“Then who’s on first,” I ask.
“Carlos Santana Jett,” he tells me. His brother.
“How about second base,” I wonder.
“Carlos Santana Dad,” he says.
“And the guy on third,” I ask.
“Carlos Santana Nash,” he reports. Their dog.
It’s been fun. And, like many of the rest of us, the boy will be on cloud nine when the Indians’ playoff series starts.
Our imaginary Cleveland Indians did not lose a game all summer, which gives me a lot of hope for the real Tribe.
Let’s just hope nothing happens to Carlos Santana.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at jimbusek@ hotmail.com.