As we waited for the next Okibus, I could see the gate guard waving-in the midday traffic. It was a good Saturday and the warmth of the spring sun was upon us. The sky was an endless blue and the air felt refreshing. Next to me was a duffel bag. It was filled with memories. Memories of many who have played the game and memories of summers past that me and my brother shared. It was green, a bit ragged, and slightly torn, but it was our duffel bag and in it where the tools of the game. Today would be another memory for it to hold, so we waited for the bus that would take us to our game.
"Do you think we'll have enough people today?" asked Tony.
"I think so, I told everyone that you are coming, so I think everyone will be there. Plus I called the 3-Ds last night just in case." I replied.
"Good, I guess we'll have enough. Let's just hope the field in Lester will be free for us to use." said Tony.
"It should be fine, we've never had a problem on a Saturday. I'm just glad that Hillary let you out today. Anyways, here's the bus, I can see it coming." The orange and white bus was coming down the main road. It would be here in a minute.
Our conversation was interrupted, a familiar voice began speaking from behind us, "Hey Mike, hey Tony how's it going? I'm ready to play."
I turned and saw him. He was carrying a mitt. "Hey Darin, good afternoon, why are you down here?" I asked.
"I live here...by Gate One. Just a few houses from those over there." he replied as he pointed to the houses next to the gate.
"Donny wanted to know if you wanted to play D&D tonight. Are you free?" Darin asked.
"Might be, I'll have to call my girl to see if she wants to do something first." I replied.
"What" inquired Darin? "You have a girlfriend?" My brother leaned over to catch the news.
"I'm not sure, we see each other every day a school and we hang out on the weekends, but it's only been a few weeks. I think so, but we haven't spoken about it." I replied. "Hey here comes the bus."
As we were boarding the bus, Darin asked. "Do I know her? What's her name?"
"You might know her, she's in our grade and she might be in one of your classes."
"Hey Darin, hey Mike" yelled a voice from the back of the bus.
I looked and saw two friends, both with mitts and eager faces. They seemed ready to play.
"Man I'm gonna hit a home run today." said Derek as he gave us a demonstration of his swing.
"I can see that you guys are ready for some ball." I replied.
"I just want to be outside and throw the ball around. Mike are you up for D&D tonight?" said Donny.
"Can anyone pitch?" asked Darin.
"I can," answered Tony.
"He's pretty good, so it should be a fun game. I know Bill can pitch as well. I'm not great, but I can if we need more pitchers." I added.
My brother looked at me smartly and smiled. I'm sure he was thinking, "OK, if you think you can."
We all sat at the back of the bus and spoke about playing the game. The bus left Kadena, took a left turn and started down the busy highway towards Camp Lester.
Most of us gathered on the field and some were taking batting practice. My brother was on the mound pitching and Bill was at bat. Joe, Ted, and Bert were waiting for their turn at the backstop. From there they could heckle Bill, trying to disturb his swings. Jeff, Ricardo, and the others were in the field. The radio sat on the dirt next to the dugout blaring away. Back in the dugout, I sat on the bench trying to solve priority one, food. I was opening a bag of e-bi-sen when Chad came in.
"Hey Mike how are things?" he said.
"Fine, ta-be-ta-i ka?" I asked as I showed him the bag of shrimp chips.
"No thanks. But you know today is a great day. It's clear, sunny, and I think we have enough players to field a real game." he said jovially.
"Yeah I think so, I'm glad I could get Darin, Derek, and Donny to come out today. We finally have a lot of people." I replied. "It's a great day to play ball."
"Plus I feel great!" he said. "By the way is Johnny coming today?"
"I think so, but he's not here yet. He's busy with the school play, so I didn't see him all week. However, I heard that Johnny and Trisha didn't work out, so hopefully he's down about that." I replied.
"I don't think so. I talked to him about it and he said that he wasn't really interested in her anyways. Johnny said that she felt the same. So he should be fine." Chad replied.
"Alright, sounds good. You know him better than I do. But you know, it's funny that I'm the only survivor from our bet. I didn't really know what I was getting into, so I certainly wasn't expecting to be the last one with a girl. Fate is an odd creature. Speaking of which, I can't wait to see her again," I said. "She's really amazing and when I'm with her time flies. I just hope the gang doesn't blow it for me, she's a clean wholesome kinda girl."
"Mike I gotta tell you something. You are not alone." he said with a smile.
"Yeah I know, my brother and Joe have girlfriends. And I heard that Joe's new girl is really hot."
"No, not them. I'm talking about me. I'm seeing someone right now, and she is amazing too. We went out last weekend and last night." Chad was smiling.
"What? I thought things between you and Anna were over weeks ago." I asked. "Didn't she get back together with her boyfriend?"
"It's not Anna I'm seeing." Chad replied.
The lone voices of our conversation were broken as Ricardo yelled, "Alright let's get started!"
"I'm gonna win myself a scholarship. Now Tony pitch it right down the middle." yelled Bill as he readied his bat.
Tony pitched and CRACK, Bill sent the ball flying towards an empty outfield.
"Ready?" asked Chad enthusiastically.
"Let's do it." I responded as we got up and ran towards the outfield.
No runs were scored that inning and I managed to shag two fly balls at center-field. Once again our side returned to the dugout. It was our turn at bat and we fared no better. I managed to make good contact with the ball, but the line drive went to close to short. Bill was there and he's too good of a player to miss it, so he didn't. As I walked away from first towards the dugout I heard Bert say "Is that all you got?" Usually I would say with something brash, the kind that would contain a four letter word, but today I was in too good of a mood to respond. I could tell Bert was a bit disappointed that I didn't say a word.
"You're out Jeff!" yelled Bill, "Get out of the dugout slackers."
"Take the field. It's my turn at bat. Tony I'm gonna knock one over the fence." said Joe with a smile.
As the opposition came into the dugout, Chad, I and the others ran on to the field. Two runs were scored while we were in the outfield, but at least Johnny had time to join the fun. He was late, but he brought his music collection. As we entered the dugout once again, I noticed that the music had stopped.
"What band are we going to play next" yelled Johnny?
"KISS!" said Jeff.
"Scorpions" yelled Derek and Darin.
"How about something with more soul," added Ted?
"How about the Outfield?" Suggested Chad, "I like the title track".
I was about to say Def Leppard, but I liked the song 'Your Love' as well. The name seemed to match my mood today so Chad's pick was a better one. "Johnny do you have the Outfield?" I asked.
As the boom box started to play, Chad, I and a few others in the dugout could be heard humming the song.
I was getting hungry again, so once again I began the search for my oasis. After a few restless moments I found it, crumpled and next to my mitt. But this time, it was mostly eaten. Damn! Someone ate half of my chips! With a slight smirk I thought, "oh well, at least the thief ate only half the chips."
With a few chips in my mouth I managed to ask," Chad what were we talking about, earlier?"
"Girls." replied Chad.
"Oh yeah, speaking of which, who's the girl?" I said.
"It's Trisha." he said with a smile.
My fingers lost their step and I dropped my bag of chips. "Shit," I mumbled as I picked up my food. A few chips were sprawled on the floor but I was quicker than the 5-second rule so nothing was lost. I looked up and asked, "Wait. How did you end up with Trisha? Isn't she Anna's best friend? Wasn't Johnny going out with her?"
"Yeah. But after things weren't going well with Anna, Trisha and I started to talk and talk. The more we talked the closer we got, next think I know we are on a date." he replied. “Plus Johnny told me he wasn't interested in Trisha anyways."
"Wow that's great news. No wonder you seem so happy today. I'm in a good mood too, I guess today really is a good day." I said with a smile.
Thus we entered a strange conversation about girls and possibly girlfriends. I never thought I'd be discussing this subject with anyone, but since Chad and I were both novices something seemed to click. We spent the rest of the inning talking about music, movies, and of course our girls.
It was the third inning and Chad, Ricardo, and I were in the outfield. There weren't enough players to field all of the infield positions, but playing without a 3rd baseman and a catcher would do. The sun was beaming down and the humidity was wearing on us. Everyone was sweaty by now, but all of us were having fun; however, I knew that two us in the outfield were having a bit more fun than everyone else. It was a good day.
Suddenly a burst of laughter from my left caught my attention. I turned and saw Chad laughing, almost doubled over, and pointing to my right. I turned to my right and looked. Ricardo had his shirt twisted and wrapped around his shoulders. Most of his chest was exposed. But what made us all laugh was the cap we wore. It was the inverted backside of his shirt that he ran though the hole where you head pokes out. Looking at him, I began to laugh as well. He looked like a Caribbean banana girl without the fruits that would normally sit on top. Or maybe he looked more like a older bald Ricardo with a white dome, either way he looked silly. Either way, he made us all laugh.
"It's hot, we're losing, and I need a rally cap" said Ricardo while grinning ear to ear. "So, let's play ball!"
Chad and I were still laughing almost to the point where it began to hurt.
Johnny was at bat. Tony wound up and readied to pitch.
"Stop!" yelled Johnny. "The music stopped playing. I need to change the tape."
"No! Just flip it over and press play." yelled Chad. "Let's play the first song one more time."
"Fine." said Johnny.
As the music started to play, Chad yells at the top of his voice "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over."
For some inexplicable reason I joined him and yell "There are some many things that I wanna say, you know I like my girls a little bit older." in unison.
"I just wanna use your love tonight." yelled Ricardo as he joined us.
Then our outfield started to sing,
"I don't want to lose your love tonight."
"I ain't got many friends left to talk to-oo, no one’s around when I'm in trouble.
"You know I'll do anything for you..."
We sang that song happily until it ended. We even managed to make a few plays while singing. It was too much fun. An hour later the game ended. We got on the Okibus and headed back to Kadena.
Derek asked, "Why the heck were you guys singing that song during the game? You guys looked like dorks."
"Got me," I responded "Chad started it and for some bizarre reason I joined him." I didn't really feel like telling him why both of us were acting so stupid, but then again, I don't think either of us really knew as well.
"Well at least we won and I got in a few good hits. Maybe you guys will win next time." said Derek.
"Maybe, but I think we won too." I replied.
"What," said Derek? "You were on the losing team, how can you win? Mike, sometimes I don't get you."
I carried a big smile as I walked to the back of the bus to join Bill and my brother.
I'm sure singing that song in the outfield made us look like a bunch of dorks that day, but for the three of us, it really didn't matter. We were having too much fun and somehow singing allowed us to express it better. I never could have imagined the effect that little stunt would have on the gang. But from that day forward, whenever we played baseball or softball, Chad and I would sing that song the first time we took to the outfield, even without the boom-box. Over time, others learned the lyrics and sang it as well. For those who have always wondered why we sang that song, now you know. We were all following the voices of two love struck teenagers, two innocent kids frozen in a moment of time, who didn't know how else to express an emotion they really didn't understand. Sometimes the best traditions come from the purest things.