Woke up this morning to the sound of a ball smacking a mitt with a deep ferocious pop that sounded like velocity. I pulled on some sweatpants and peeked out the back window. Jim Palmer stood on the new mound in my backyard and bent himself into a slow windup, unfurled and delivered another resonating blow to the hushed April morning.
To compensate for the loss when the diseased and crumbling cherry tree in our backyard had to come down, I used the unsettling new open space to install a pitcher's mound. I tended a verdant span of dwarf fescue between mound and plate and now was waiting for a dry day so the boys could try it out.
By the time I pulled a shirt on and went downstairs to go out and investigate, another pitch popped the mitt and I realized that the guy catching was Rick Dempsey. I had some kind of Field of Dreams thing going on in my backyard. And I hadn't even had to plow the corn under.
Palmer was taller than I remembered him, and tanner than he looked on television. Something odd occurred to me, though, as I stepped to the mound, all my weight forward in a poor Earl Weaver impersonation.
"Wait a minute, Palmer. You're not a ghost. You're not even dead."
He put his glove hand on a hip and looked over at Dempsey, then back at me. "We were over the Levinsons and saw your mound, thought we'd hop the fence and toss a few. I hope that's cool."
"Alright--sure," I said.
"I feel great on this mound," he said. "I haven't thrown this well in twenty years."
I smiled and told him to take as many throws as he wanted. I waved to Dempsey and went back to the house and got some coffee. I didn't have the heart to tell him that home plate was a mere forty-six feet, Little League distance, from the pitcher's mound.