I left my heart in San Francisco. Then it went to Texas. Now, it’s in Chicago, dodging rats the size of German Shepherds and eluding the mob.
The one who took my heart on this lonely journey was a pretty phenomenal guy. Handsome, athletic and always smiling. His physical prowess first caught my eye; his Venezuelan accent ensnared my heart completely. How could I resist his singing, his drumming, his attempts to cover Goo Goo Dolls hits? Who wouldn’t adore a man who spends his free time volunteering at the Special Olympics, teaching kids to read and assisting natural disaster victims? I should have known he’d be trouble.
Our love just wasn’t meant to be. The numbers don’t lie: there’s 2,000 miles between us, he’s got 21 years on me and he has a wife and two kids.
But his fielding percentage is amazing.
I fell for Omar Vizquel, legendary Major League Baseball shortstop, late in high school. I figured I could impress my boyfriend by pretending to enjoy baseball. Purely by accident, I began actually enjoying it. On the 10-point scale of baseball fandom, I may never have reached Level 7 (Surprising Your Male Friends with a Respectable Knowledge of AVG, OBP, and Other Letters of the Alphabet), but I watched almost every Giants game and held my own in a fantasy league. Kind of.
Yes, I loved baseball, and I loved the Giants. Most of all, I loved Omar. Sure, he was kind of…gifted in years. Two weeks after his MLB debut in 1989, I was stuffing cake up my nose at my first birthday party.
But when I started watching ball 16 years later, he was still more agile than his spring chicken teammates, slinging lightning-fast double plays and stealing bases like I steal my roommates’ milk. (Figure of speech, of course.) He defied age, was among the league leaders in countless statistical categories and almost – almost – convinced me to ditch prom for Omar Poster Day. I still regret not wearing my poofy pink dress to the ballpark. Stupid peer pressure.
After I went off to college, Omar and I started to drift apart. I didn’t get Fox Sports Net in my dorm, the Giants’ radio station wouldn’t come through and…well, I just didn’t have the time. Omar didn’t exactly try to keep in touch, either – after knee surgery and a less-than-stellar season, he failed to woo San Francisco into another contract and took off to play for the Texas Rangers. We really don’t get their radio station out here.
I knew he wasn’t getting many at-bats in Texas. He used to be the guy playing every day; now, he was the guy training some goofy young upstart to replace him. One year later and it’s the same story in Chicago. Team by team, they’re slowly putting him out to pasture.
My heart mended over time. I’d had several pictures of Omar taped to my bedroom door for three years, my Vizquel shirt was consistently at the top of my t-shirt rotation and there may or may not be a shrine to my Latin lover on my desk. But the truth is, he hardly ever entered my mind.
Until last Saturday.
I went to the Giants-Astros game with some of my friends. Historically, only three things have had the capacity to make me grin like an idiot for longer than three minutes: 1) jumping on trampolines, 2) taking off in a commercial jet, and 3) going to a ballgame. Setting foot inside the park? Pure bliss. The first whiff of garlic fries? Rapture. And the moment I see all the tiny white-clad guys on the field, warming up, about to perform an unrepeatable spectacle before my very eyes? My head is several psi from exploding with ecstasy.
But it was so different this time. Completely out of the loop, I hadn’t even heard of half the guys on the team. I knew my man wasn’t out there, but I was still compelled to sit on the edge of my seat, searching, waiting for my heart to leap in joyous recognition. Of course, Omar never appeared. I felt the dull ache of irrecoverably lost love and knew life would never be the same.
Ninety-eight percent of the time, I’m nothing but utterly enthused that my life now looks nothing like my life in high school. But when it comes to Omar, it’s hard to accept that those days will never return. I still contend that he’s in amazing physical and mental shape, and I hate that he doesn’t get to show off his skill and do what he loves more often. I do have to face the truth, though – he won’t play like he’s 25 forever. (Unless he’s secretly one of those immortal jellyfish I wrote about in my last philosophy paper. Seriously, Google it.)
Maybe there’s some kind of lesson in here about not idolizing people you don’t actually know or learning to let go of the past. That sounds like the kind of thing I’d say. But all I can really tell you is this: Be ever so careful when you give your heart to a middle-aged pro baseball player. He might just take it to Illinois and never give it back.
BETH SEKISHIRO has to go to Chicago right before leaving for her job in France. To contribute to her “just let me see his face one more time” ticket-buying fund, e-mail her at email@example.com.