Editor’s Note: “The Poops” is a chapter in the book of short stories Oh, Title! by author Daniel Donatelli,
no relation, who is my brother.
The weekend before I left for college was the first time I ever smoked weed. Because of how seriously I took baseball in my youth, and because of the then-depths of my profound Catholic-moral guilt, I just never had any interest in puffing the magic dragon.
But then high school ended, and I had one last summer of baseball—one last summer of trying to get a scholarship, to continue my athletic successes in college. But I didn’t get shit.
Baseball used to be my life. Everyone knew exactly where they could find me nine months out of the year: practicing, running, hitting with friends . . . whatever. It was the heartbeat of my adolescence.
Now picture this: I played for the best summer-league team in Cleveland. The best of the best northeast Ohio had to offer. We were cocky, talented, locally successful, and better than you or anyone else (at least from Ohio). Every season ended with a State Tournament in Youngstown OH—the most depressing place in America this side of anywhere else I’ve ever been—and the tournament after my senior year was particularly special, not only because we’d made it further than any other team I’d ever played for, but also because I knew it was the final season of my baseball career. And after a childhood of playing tournament baseball, it was particularly special for me to be pitching in the state-championship semifinal game.
The thing about tournament ball is that usually both teams’ aces face off in the semifinals because there’s no point in saving your best starter for a championship game you might not even make it to. And in fact I wrote about a similar situation in my novel Jibba And Jibba, but I needed to enhance the drama of the situation, so I had young Jibba, who was his team’s ace, pitch in the finals.
My defense is that JAJ is a sloppily written work of fiction, and this particular story is not (fictional, that is).
In front of dozens of scouts, my friends, my family, and a smattering of players from teams left behind who’d come to the game to give me a hard time (I’d been responsible for the defeat of a number of top teams in that, the greatest tournament I ever played in), I took the mound, and the game began.