"David Justice is here!"
I froze, dropping both Sabertooth and Wolverine onto the faux marble floor. My aunt confirmed to my speechless brother and I that David Justice, the star right fielder for the Cleveland Indians, had just wandered by Kay-B-Toys. Without a word, my brother Cory raised his palm, silently requesting a pen and something from within the caverns of my aunt's purse to get signed -- be it a napkin, an envelope, anything. I then tripped over Sabertooth's broken leg as Cory and I clamored out of the toy store and into the heart of the Cleveland mall, engulfed in our frenzy to meet David Justice.
My ticket stub to the seven o'clock game at Jacobs Field was grasped in my hand as I pursued after my older brother who conscientiously believed that baseball was life. If I had been born into another family, I might've cared less about the sport; in my case, it was sacrilegious not to love it. I grew up on the bleachers of Cory's Little League games learning about Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Lou Gehrig.
|Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth|
In second grade, I punched a know-it-all classmate in the face when he claimed that Kirby Puckett, the Minnesota Twin who was forced to retire due to glaucoma in 1995, was receiving too much airtime on television.
Sure, I enjoyed other sports, but there was just something about baseball that I loved even more. The crack of the baseball bat. The scrape-crunch of metal cleats abrading against asphalt. The smell of the leather glove positioned in my hand. All of those little things helped make baseball infinitely superior to any other sport. Things that only baseball lovers would understand.
"Excuse us, sir -- may we have your autograph?" Cory politely asked when we finally approached David Justice, interrupting his stroll through the mall. Dressed in khakis and a tight onyx T-shirt, David Justice's teeth shined almost as much as his buffed head when he turned to face us.
"Sure," he replied, taking Cory's ticket and a Sharpie. "Season tickets, row AA, huh? You two big fans?"
Cory shot a quick glance at me and smirked.
"Kinda. We're here on vacation. We're O's fans," he confessed.
"The Orioles? Come on, now," David Justice scoffed as he handed Cory's ticket back and took mine. "Well... I guess it could be worse. Ya'll could be Yankees fans."
Those mere five seconds it took for him to sign my ticket stub was surreal. This was the first time I had actually met a baseball player in the flesh, and it was glorious. Had it been anyone else on the Cleveland Indians, the moment wouldn't have been as special, but David Justice was arguably the best player on the team at the time. In those seconds, I came to the conclusion that not only did David Justice become my favorite baseball player, but one day, I'd also have to marry him.
Then, just as swiftly, casually, and gallantly as ever, David Justice handed back my newest, most prized possession, and patted the top of my baseball hat as he spoke:
"Here you go, little boy..." his voice trailed off as he leaned forwarded to take a closer look at my face. He blushed with embarrassment and then chuckled slightly. "Oh. I mean... little girl."
Perhaps this David Justice wasn't as great as I had thought he was.
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