INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 10 -- Avon Meacham had pretty much stopped waiting for the phone to ring. His entire sports career seemed to amount to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Having recently turned 30 years old, desperation time for an aspiring athlete, Meacham had one more chance for athletic glory. After graduating from Cardozo High in the District and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Meacham became a bureaucrat, a budget analyst for the Department of Agriculture. But in his spare time, he became a demon of a fast-pitch softball outfield: 5 feet 6, 170 pounds, fast and left-handed. The Joe Morgan of fast-pitch softball.

Word of his play spread from Guy Mason Park on Wisconsin Avenue NW to Colorado Springs, and he was extended an invitation to try out for the U.S. team for the Pan American Games.

Meacham thought he had a nice tryout. But he was only named an alternate. "The story of my life," Meacham thought. He went back home to Mitchellville, Md., and his job in Beltsville and tried to forget about another near-miss.

But on the last Tuesday in July, with Meacham trying to escape the office at 4:15, the phone rang. The call was from Colorado Springs. One of the outfielders had been disqualified because he tested positive for drug use.

"At that point, you don't exactly get a rush," Meacham said. "I had mixed emotions, but I knew being on the U.S. softball team would be the ultimate for me. I mean, let's face it, I'm up in age and the sand is almost all at the bottom of the hourglass . . .

"The one obstacle is that my immediate supervisor . . . was reluctant to give me permission to take my leave time to join the team. But Larry Wilson, the director of financial management, was really gung ho about it. He told her to let me go. So it happened."

It happens that Meacham is one of the regular outfielders for the U.S. team. His two walks and two runs scored contributed to the United States' 7-0 victory over the Virgin Islands today in second-round Pan Am competition. For the next two weeks, Meacham and four teammates will be sharing one room because of the housing crunch. Nine of them are sharing one shower. Meacham is so happy, he hardly notices.

"My entire athletic career there have been obstacles," he said today. "At Cardozo {1971-75}, I played baseball and basketball. One year they didn't have enough money to field a football team, and another year not enough to field a baseball team. When I started playing softball and we tried to travel, I had to come out of my pocket with money all the time. It was self-sponsorship.

"Then, I get here and everything is paid for. They clothe you, feed you. You know the white suit and hat they have the Americans wear for the opening ceremonies? I told my wife {Monica} that I want to pack it all away and be buried in it, the suit, the hat and a medal. This is the ultimate."

Meacham's fast-pitch softball career was nearly scrapped in 1981 when the Department of Agriculture transferred him to Spokane, Wash., for three years.

He twice tried out as a free-agent running back for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. The third time, in 1983, the Seahawks liked him and were ready to invite him to minicamp. But free-agent candidates had to be 25 years old or younger. Meacham was almost 27, so he lied and said he was 23.

"But because they liked me so much," he said, "they started to ask around. I had told them I graduated from Cardozo in 1980, but they asked around and found out that Cardozo had dropped its football program by then."

End of football career. Because Meacham never had signed any sort of professional contract, he retained full amateur status. A return to Washington in 1984 also meant a return to serious fast-pitch.

Meacham hooked on with a team in Annapolis. When Annapolis Radiator went to the world tournament in Sioux City, Iowa last August, Meacham batted .526 and was named first-team all-world. And because of that, the U.S. team became interested.

"I thought being named all-world was the maximum achievement," Meacham said. "I never dreamed it would come to this."

Meacham is reluctant to dream any more. Should the U.S. team play well enough here -- and Cuba and Canada will have something to say about that -- playing on the Olympic team would be a possibility. "But the Summer Games {in South Korea} will be in September of 1988," he said, "and that's only three weeks before the end of the fiscal year. Being away from the office in August is bad enough. I'll have to wait and see how everybody feels about my being here, first."