A good oh-for-three

My baseball career was modest at best. After warming the bench at ages nine and ten, I played regularly during my last two Little League campaigns, making the all-star team in my final season. Three years of Babe Ruth League ball followed, with similar results. I was named an all-star at age 15, but only because every team needed a representative, and I was judged by the selection committee to be the least incompetent player on the league’s last-place squad. I may have had a couple of two-hit games along the way, but once pitchers began throwing curveballs on purpose, I experienced a lot of oh-for-threes.

Baseball is America’s traditional summer game, and that’s relevant because on days within a week of the solstice I can leave home on a bicycle at 7:30 PM for a grocery store that’s four miles away, pick up bananas and a half-gallon of milk, and pedal home with daylight to spare. And that’s important, since my bike is a Wrigley Field model. Which, as old-time baseball fans inherently understand, means it has no lights.

Virtually everyone around here knows how late darkness arrives during June’s last week, but relatively few are up when the sun first peeks over the horizon in the morning. But those of us who leave for work early in the AM know, and the unaccustomed early morning glimmer changes a few things about our daily commute.

The biggest difference involves some of our fellow mammals, specifically the ones that live outdoors. Their existence is more directly impacted by the early daylight than the lives of those of us who live and work inside enclosed structures. Normally timid animals are more brazen about crossing the road this time of year, since they aren’t discouraged or intimidated by oncoming headlights.

Which brings me to a recent incident. It was 5 AM and I was no more than two miles into my ride to work when, 50 or so yards ahead of me, a large deer suddenly emerged from the bushes on the road’s right side, ambled onto the pavement, straddled the yellow lines in the middle of the street, then paused to casually observe its surroundings. Fortunately, I was driving the speed limit (which rarely bothers anyone at that hour), so I had sufficient time to slow down and allow the animal to glance my way, shrug, and then canter off to continue its day.

I would have liked to exhale at that point, but not a half-mile later a squirrel scurried out of the underbrush to my left and sprinted across the road no more than 10 yards ahead of me. There was no time to stop, but the bushy-tailed rodent timed its dash well, because there was no thump, and a split-second later I saw him disappear into the weeds to my right.

I didn’t have time to pat myself on the back, though. No more than a minute later, I was picking up speed on a straightaway when I detected more motion. It was a turkey that, like the squirrel, was attempting to cross the road from left to right. And even though the confused fowl’s gait resembled a knuckleball’s path (as opposed to the squirrel’s straight fastball), avoiding him was a breeze, as I had seen him and was able to decelerate with more than enough time to spare.

Within a five-minute, three-mile span three animals had darted onto the road without warning, and I didn’t so much as foul tip any of them.

Going hitless isn’t always a bad thing. I’m still grateful for last week’s oh- for-three!

Andy Young
June 21, 2024

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