1 “There's No Place
When my three-year-old son hits a wiffle ball, we shout together, “run,” and he takes off. Never mind that he usually heads toward what would be third base if we'd bother to lay out bases; he runs in a straight line until I call out “first base.” Then, he veers to the right, runs until I shout, “second base,” and then turns and goes again until I yell, “third base.” When he makes his final turn and heads back in the general direction where he started, he's on his own. At some random point toward what would be the plate, he slows almost completely, goes to his knees, and performs a slow-motion headfirst slide. When he stops, it's my job to wave my hands and declare, umpire-style, “sa-a-afe.”
Put more simply, under his rules, he gets to invent home. The sequence is always the same—a hit, a run with three turns, and a slide—but the particular spot where he stops is always different. If he's fresh and the ball made a particularly satisfying thump when he hit it, he might make it almost all of the way back to where he's discarded his bat. If it's getting late and the field we've chosen isn't all that open, he might stop just past the invisible third base. Either way, home is where he says it is. He stops and rests when he decides he's ready.
The more I watch him, the more I get the sense that real baseball isn't all that different. Home is always wherever the plate is—it's always the same spot where you hit—but there is something arbitrary about even that. We take a spot and decide