Some things never change: the velvet flock
of the turf, the baselines smoothed to suede,
the ancient smell of peanuts, the harsh smack
the ball makes burrowing into the catcher’s mitt.
Here in the Grapefruit League’s trellised shade
you catch Pie Traynor’s lofting rightfield foul
all over again. You’re ten in Fenway Park
and wait past suppertime for him to autograph it
then race for home all goosebumps in the dark
to roll the keepsake ball in paraffin,
soften your secondhand glove with neat’s-foot oil
and wrap your Louisville Slugger with friction tape.
The Texas Leaguers, whatever league you’re in
still tantalize, the way they waver and drop.
Carl Hubbell’s magical screwball is still
give or take sixty years unhittable.
Sunset comes late but comes, inexorable.
What lingers is the slender hook of hope.
“Spring Training” by Maxine Kumin, from Connecting the Dots. © Norton, 1996.