It was June 2009, and I was standing in front of a full-length mirror studying my body.
What I saw didn’t please me. My eyes were deep with wrinkles and lines, while my knuckles were raw from scratching at the walls; vacant and deathly white chunks of skin, I realized with a certain amount of terror, were forever scarred by my escapades. It was very depressing.
“You’re an athlete,” I told myself. “You’re a celebrity. They know you all over, nationally and internationally. Too many people know you. You rarely have any peace and quiet.” I forgot my point. I imagine I was trying to motivate myself but it was all falling miserably short of any pep talk I had ever heard. Mostly because I looked like a hobo.
My shoulders slouched as if I were an elderly person. I felt a tinge of the world ending in front of me. What had turned out to be a small point of concern had become a tear in my arm, the arm that was supposed to save me, had failed me. My life had become an existence that I was becoming less and less familiar with.
I saw the beginning of liver spots forming on my face; I imagined a life that I had appreciated so little falling away from me like the cab that took my husband and kids away. I searched for something presentable on my body but only found more disappointment when I curiously stared at my pot belly, as if it were an alien. I stared at it and then twisted my back and suffered the customary stab of pain in my coccyx, aggravated by passing out repeatedly on a soft mattress I was addicted to. The tendinitis in my shoulder throbbed.
My toe and finger nails were also a disgrace, permanently blackened by the toxins I had ingested thousands of times. They called it medicine, I called it poison. My asshole itched. My knees hurt. My toe-nails or what little was left of them were brittle and chipped, making them razor sharp and destructive. My ears were clogged by cotton I had stuffed in them to avoid the real world. So were my sinuses and for the same reason. Needless to say I was not thrilled with my state of being.
I walked away from the mirror and stumbled onto a table. The table collapsed under my mass with its contents spilled across the flooring of my room. I kicked a small potted plant out of the window that overlooked the courtyard. The broken glass fell conveniently outside. I raised my arms in celebration but my collarbone protested and I slowly lowered my arms.
The phone rang. I ignored it. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to be sullen. I wanted to lick my wounds and allow the earth to engulf me. I punched the mirror for turning on me and bled on myself for thirty minutes. I bled the life blood of my existence out forever. I looked out the window and stared at the broken potted plant. I was broken also and for the same reason.
My first day out of the rehabilitation center should have been happy times. It was supposed to represent a new freedom for me. It was supposed to represent a real change in lifestyle for me but I was nervous. I felt as though I had been birthed out into the world as an infant and could not wrap my mind around my own survival. In a previous life I had an agent named Tom Phelps. Tom was the kind of guy that would sell a liver in order to get a television show green lit. He was the kind of guy that made deals for celebrities before he had the celebrity under contract. He was the ambulance chaser of agents. He also wore finely tailored suits and paid a limousine company to drive him around, even if he only needed to drive to the supermarket. I was his lone athlete.
“I got a call from the New Mexico Rangers, they want to know if you are available,” Tom said while greeting me at the golden arches entrance in front of the rehab center. I stared at him and then uttered “why?”
The limousine smelled of cocaine and prostitutes, a smell that followed Tom from location to location.
“I got your pages from the center, although I am not sure what to do with them.” Tom said.
“Didn’t you say that publishing my story would be good for my career?”
“I believe I said that it could potentially be good for your career.”
“I don’t understand the difference.”
“The difference is that if you staged a comeback while simultaneously published a tell- all book, that potentially you could make a good thing great. Thus the information of, I got a call from the Rangers.”
“I don’t know if I can lace it up again.”
“Then why am I here?”
“I thought you were here because you cared?”
“Is that really what you thought?”
“I suppose I did.”
“How long have we been together, seven or eight years now?”
“Are we talking good years or the years that I couldn’t get ahold of you?”
“Even if we threw those years out, it is still a significant amount of time.”
“Three good years but a total of seven.”
“The number is irrelevant at this point. The point is that I need you to lace it up if we are going to have any kind of relationship. I am here today to salvage your career. If you don’t want to salvage it I can leave.”
“What about the book?”
“I can get any sophomore in college to write a book. I don’t deal with books; I deal with real world economics. Books are……Do you want to be a Shakespeare or Nolan Ryan because those are two distinctly different paths.”
“I want to get better.”
“Are you looking for sympathy, because sympathy doesn’t drive a limo, sympathy takes the bus. If you want to take the bus you tell me, we can pull over.”
“How about a break?”
“You know who takes breaks? Old people. Are you old? Do you need a nap and a hot towel?”
I wanted to explain to him that I had peaked in life that my last game had been played but he stared at me with the eyes of a shark and I folded. I should have known better but the idea of being alone frightened me. I hadn’t been alone since I was in High School and High School had been many years prior. I said “I will sign with the Rangers.” Tom clapped his hands to himself, breathed a sigh of relief then said “Good, now I don’t have to kick you out of the car.”
My first day in a Rangers uniform seemed odd. I felt ill prepared for a new team in a new city. It was like the first day of school all over again and I was the new kid. The kid that rumor had it had been expelled from their previous school. I picked at my cleat for ten minutes while in uniform. My stomach turned. I didn’t want to cry. I missed my husband. I missed my daughters. I wanted to be held for hours on end by a parental figure. I grabbed my cell phone out of my locker and dialed the last number I had on Phil. I waited for it to ring for the twentieth time since I left my rehab center. “We’re sorry; this number has been disconnected or is no longer in use.”
I stared blankly at the ground in front of me. I wanted to scream out but instead stared at my uniform. I looked at its buttons lined up the middle of my torso and read the name “Rangers” spelled out in large letters. A single tear dropped from my eye in between the “n” and the “g.”
I had worn a New York Bombers jersey for seven years and never thought that I would be on another team. I thought I would retire as the first female baseball player in a Bombers jersey. I thought I had rocked the system by pitching the team out of many “jams.” Their words not mine. I thought I had finally fought off all of the stereotypes for women within a male locker room. I suppose with my own personal bathroom and changing area I had upset many players in the Bombers locker room, but now with the Rangers I would have to start all over again. I would have to listen to the cat calls and back handed compliments all over.
The Rangers schedule seemed odd to me for some reason, mostly due to its complete opposition to the Bombers schedule. When the Rangers stretched, the Bombers would have been throwing. When the Rangers threw, the Bombers would have been warming up. I felt the slight tear at my arm with every throw. I felt a separation at the scar in my shoulder stretch and then compress.
My new pitching coach, Earl Thomas, was old. He reminded me of my maternal Grandmother who always called me a “tomboy.” Earl wouldn’t look me in the eyes when he talked me. “So what do you got there Reilly?” “What do you mean?” I responded softly.
“Well, you see I have a curve ball pitcher, a fast ball pitcher and a split ball pitcher. What do you do?”
“I pitch a sinker, a fastball and a curve.”
“Let me see your fastball.”
I pulled my arm back and flung the ball towards the awaiting catcher. I looked at Earl for support but received his catch phrase in substitute, “not good enough.”
Earl walked away while I caught the ball from the catcher. From what I had heard of Earl, he never smiled. I knew I was out of shape and I didn’t deserve a smile though. My fast ball which had once been clocked at ninety-two now barely clocked in at eighty-six. While six miles per hour seemed to some to be insignificant to the game it was the difference between making the team and staying home.
Some people say home is where the heart is and other people say that home is that warm place in your heart that all of your hopes and dreams live. I thought about my home or lack thereof and stood in silence. The world’s noises filled my ears with chatter from other players and the silence footsteps of squirrels prancing around the outfield beyond the fence. I took it all in and processed it. What did it all mean? What was I doing here? How had I become thirty-three years old and burnt out?
The year was 2000 and I was the number one starting pitcher for the University of Arizona Wildcats softball team. I pitched underhand with an enlarged windup and a two-step shift from left to right delivery. The manager of the team had once called me “The best pitcher on the team with the worst mechanics.” I took it as a compliment but I am sure that it was some kind of insult. I liked my delivery I thought it was clean and well prepared.
What I lacked in technique I made up with sheer determination as I struck out an average twelve batters a game. Most of the girls in college were free swinging on and off the playing field. The running joke at the beginning of every year was that our clean-up hitter would be pregnant before the first game of the season, but each year she made it through it while sleeping around, or at least the rumor was that she slept around. I couldn’t keep up with her antics. It all seemed reasonable to me as she had lost her father in the first Persian Gulf War.
My father, John Reilly, was extremely proud of me as he had saved a large sum of money for my sister Debra and I to go to college when he found out that I had earned a scholarship, he immediately bought himself a Porsche. It was repossessed six months later.
Debra Reilly was not as lucky as I was. She didn’t have the grades to go to college and my parents didn’t have the money to send her. So she ended out joining the military. It all seemed a bit odd to me but after two years in the service she had her first child and then a year after she had her second, but she was happy with her military husband, Hank.