I was glad to see them, of course, but there was also a nervousness in me I couldn't explain. I felt like an outsider in the clubhouse. I wasn't able to contribute anything. I was just a visitor. I felt all knotted up inside and I knew my guts would explode if I didn't get out of there in a hurry. So I made my excuses, said I had a headache and would watch them on TV. When I got home I didn't bother to switch the set on.
The next time I went back to Fenway Park I suited up. I had to feel a part of it even if I wasn't. But I wouldn't take any hitting. I knew how bad I'd look. Instead I went to the outfield to shag flies, but even out there I wasn't too sure of myself. When the ball came at me I saw two or three at the same time, so I decided to finesse it. I'd let the ball drop a few feet in front of me and then I'd nonchalantly pick it up. Some of the guys out there with me would ask, "How's the eye, Tony?" and I'd say, "Oh, fine. It's coming along fine."
When the club went on the road I drove out to Fenway Park. Keith Rosenfield, our regular bat boy, was sanding down a bat when I walked into the clubhouse. "Hey, Moe," I said, "I feel like working out. How about flipping some in to me?" Moe's a small kid with big dark eyes, and those eyes sure bugged out now. All the kids who work for the club love to play ball, and anytime a player asks them to practice with him they jump at the chance.
While I changed, Moe went to get some balls and tell the ground crew to put up the batting cage. My heart began to race. I was getting that edgy feeling I always get before a ball game. I picked up a couple of my favorite bats. I grabbed a helmet with an earflap on the left side and went out to meet Moe.
As I stepped into the batter's box I suddenly realized that this was the spot where I'd been hit. It gave me a cold feeling. I wondered if I really could make it back all the way, and I remember telling myself that if I ever did I wasn't going to be gun-shy. I'll dig in and crowd the plate like I always did, I said. I wasn't going to let a little beaning bother me.
"O.K., Moe," I yelled out. "I'll lay a couple of bunts down first." I got the thick part of my bat on his first pitch and dropped it down the line. It was a good bunt. I tried several more, mostly to get the feel again, and finally I called out, "O.K., I'm hitting. Just throw strikes."
Moe nodded, went into a big windmill windup, kicked his leg up and threw a powderpuff. He weighed all of 120 pounds and he really couldn't throw very hard. I hit the ball weakly to short. I hadn't seen it very well and I didn't get all of my bat on it. But I didn't really care at this point. I just wanted to get the sensation of hitting a baseball again. I have always loved hitting. When I was a kid I used to hit till my hands bled. Now I just wanted to prove to myself that I could come back no matter how long it was going to take. I couldn't stand the thought of being away from baseball.
Moe threw me another one like the first one and I topped it down the third-base line. I missed the next one completely. It was a high inside pitch. Before, if I had decided to go for it I would have got wood on it. Not now.
I could see Moe was worried. "Look," I said, "I'm wearing a helmet and it's got an earflap. If you come close I'll get out of the way. O.K.?"
Now Moe got real serious and began aiming the ball down the middle. He got a good one over, but the best I could do with it was send a fly to shallow center. I missed a couple and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck pinch. I was good and mad. I realized I could see the ball only with my right eye. When I tried to see it with my left, tears would come and I'd lose it.