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3:33 Sports Short #60 // We Ain't Supposed To Play by Lorraine Caputo

I rubbed oil into my new Dave Winfield mitt. Being the youngest of the older four kids in a family that could only afford one worn glove, I finally had my own. For several months, a friend taught me to catch – a skill I never really learned as a kid in our backyard games. Oh, I can smack that ball okay (how many windows we broke!) and I’ve still got a mean pitching arm. But no, I never learned how to catch.

In 1988, I was ready to hit the road for my first trip to Central America, come what will – even a pick-up game with kids. I packed that glove and a new ball into the bottom of my old canvas pack and headed to the bus station. They would provide much fun over the next few months – even playing catch with three Honduran soldiers on the border with Nicaragua.

My love for baseball has followed me through nine journeys now through Latin America. I have watched kids playing baseball in a neighborhood dirt lot in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. I have joined youngsters playing ball on the side lawn Havana’s Capitolio and stickball (with Hatuey beer caps as “balls”) in the streets of Santiago de Cuba. I pitched to the boys playing in the calles of Cartagena.

But one experience brought me back to my youth, to those times when girls weren’t supposed to play ball. We couldn’t join Little League and there was no t-ball. Heck, we didn’t even know about that League of Their Own, a herstory that would not be re-discovered until decades later. Still, I dreamed of becoming a professional player.

One day wandering around Rama, Nicaragua, I see three boys playing in a small field at the foot of an embankment. One is swinging a splintering bat and another tossing an old tennis ball. They invite me to play with them. At that moment, two girls walk along the path. We call to them. No, they shake their heads, girls don’t play.

I put my hands on my hips and look at them. “Really?”

“Well, Ma would be really mad if she caught us playing.”

They put their basket on the ground and join us for a couple of innings, the gals against the guys. No-one’s keeping score. We’re too busy hunting down the ball in the thick vegetation.

Soon, all too soon, a woman’s voice tumbles down through the brush. One girl drops the bat and looks worriedly at the other. Es nuestra mamá, they say. And they run up the path and disappear around a bend.

Indeed, we girls weren’t supposed to play ball either. On the school side lot, I was one of the few that joined the boys in a pick-up game. One day in the third grade, I caught hell when I came home for lunch. A wide grass streak greened one side of my pastel floral, voile dress. “What happened?” my mother asked. “I stole third.”

Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her poetry and narratives have been published in over 100 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, such as Drumvoices Revue, Canadian Dimension, The Mérida Review (Mexico), A New Ulster (Northern Ireland), Open Road Review (India), Cordite Poetry Review (Australia) and Bakwa (Cameroon). As well, her works appear in 11 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and the upcoming Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2016), five audio recordings, and 17 anthologies. She has also authored several travel guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada chose her verse as poem of the month. She has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia. For the past decade, she has been traveling through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth.”