The Tao of Catch:
Competitive satori?

Palmer Hall
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When I was seven years old, the boys and some girls in the Multimax Village housing project would play catch on an almost daily basis. We could, for a while, forget where we were and lose ourselves in the rhythm. The typical project square was a rectangle, two converted military barracks on each long side, one at either end. The small plot of barely surviving grass and weeds made a great playground, though it wasn't large enough for an actual game of baseball and we could not afford to replace windows broken by batted balls.
While I *like* to think of "catch" as a matter of satori, it could be competitive. We would not simply toss a ball back and forth, but would try for rank. How fast could we throw a fastball? Did it make the other guy's hand sting through his often borrowed glove? Could we actually throw a curve? Who could field a thrown "grounder" best?
But, yes, usually it was just the rhythm, the ball flying back and forth in easy arcs, the slap of the ball as it landed in the glove or the quietness when it nestled in the webbing.
The true macho spirit in catch was most often demonstrated in those fast ball competitions, but also showed up when we worked on long flies. Pity the poor boy who could not heave the ball from one side of the square to the other in a relatively straight line. But even then there was beauty in it, the realization that what counted most was skill and timing and not muscle.
I would like to think that there was no one-upsmanship in playing catch, but that was not true. Still, the thwack of the ball as it landed in the glove, the wind up and smooth action of the arm and wrist, the repetitive nature of the game, all, all of this, made catch the ideal game for those of us who spent formative years in the projects.

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