Jason Michaels stared at the screen across the room and listened to the announcer describe another replay of the moment he already wanted to forget. On the television, he wore a crisp, white Nationals uniform, black sunglasses under his red cap, big league all the way. In the clubhouse, he wore a three-quarter-sleeve T-shirt and sliding shorts.
He watched the fly ball fall out of the sky, the rays from a setting sun blanketing left field, and he watched the ball plop out of his glove. Again. One announcer said the sun had obviously blinded him. The other said no, look, he saw the ball and it smacked the heel of his glove.
Michaels stared. A reporter asked about the sun. He shook his head.
“I just flat-out missed it,” he said.
He looked back on the television. He tried to remember when he last flat-out missed a fly ball.
“It’s been a long time,” he said.
Michaels, 35, has been playing professional baseball since the Phillies drafted him in 1998, and he has played in 1,031 major leagues over 11 seasons. He signed a minor league in December so he could compete to make the Nationals. They put his locker next to Bryce Harper’s. If he makes an error, even in spring, he waits in the clubhouse for reporters to show up.
“You got to forget about it and move on,” Michaels said. “I take a lot of pride in my outfield. If I’m not doing it in the plate that day, I’d like to do it in the outfield, do something. Just, yeah, you gotta move on.”
Michaels got up and walked to the shower. On the television, the game went on.
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