FORT MYERS, FL—A run-of-the-mill medium-speed ground ball has been hit right up the middle in such textbook fashion that it is nearly impossible for anything—anything in the entire world—to go wrong before the shortstop can field it, ballpark sources report.
The ground ball, which came off the upper barrel of the bat and instantly fell spinning to the turf, is being slowed by the evenly cut grass in a way that almost certainly ensures it will not take a bad hop, carom off a tuft of weeds, or spin off a clod of gravel when it crosses the base path, as it certainly must do before the shortstop can field it.
"Might as well not even watch this," said the manager of the fielding team, turning his back on the action and walking into the dugout for a refreshing cup of water. "That runner advancing to second will almost certainly get cut down in the double play that is about to happen, because that softly hit grounder is sure to land in the shortstop's glove with a solid, honest 'thwack.' I have no doubt about this whatsoever."
All available evidence suggests the manager's faith and confidence are well-placed.
As the baseball rolled smoothly but not too rapidly through the grass, the shortstop took only one short lateral hopping step—the sort of basic, everyday motion he was taught long before Little League and has executed with relaxed precision thousands of times until it has become an unconscious function of muscle memory—and then bent slightly at the knees to position himself perfectly in front of the advancing grounder. Due to the perfect form of the infielder and the almost archetypal nature of the situation, analysts and fans alike believe any sort of complication arising from the recovery of the ball is so unlikely as to be beyond consideration.
"I suppose the sun could get in the shortstop's eyes, or perhaps some dust, but really, that almost never happens," said one fan, rising out of his seat. "He's got this. Kids make this play. This is out three, automatic as it gets. I might as well start heading for the restroom now, since the inning is obviously just as good as over."
Although the mental state of the shortstop is difficult to discern, the likelihood of a sudden mental distraction is considered a low probability, as fielding ground balls is a large portion of the man's profession. While there is always the chance that the routine nature of the play itself may cause the shortstop's mind to drift somewhat, very little concentration will in fact be needed to field the rather ordinary ball.
At press time, the infielder's eyes are clearly tracking the ever-so-slightly slowing ball, his glove held at the precise angle to field it perfectly, his other hand poised to cover the ball once it lands in the glove's webbing, his feet shoulder's-width apart, his weight held in tension by his slightly bent knees, his hips perpendicular to the ball, and there is nothing, not one single thing, that will prevent this utterly mundane ground ball from being fielded in the correct fashion.