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Mad Dawg and the Shiner
The distant blurred hum of the crowd’s loud excitement , the squatting catcher taunting me through his facemask, the pitcher winding up his arm, and a gradually increasing unidentifiable blare in the background.
The ball rolled off his fingers and flew towards me. At the last second I swung my arm with all my force.
CRACK. My alarm clock noisily flew across my room and hit the wall while I cradled my throbbing hand to my chest.
“MADELINE, you’re gonna be late for school!”
“Jeez, coming mom!” Sighing, I rolled out of bed to get ready for another baseball-less day.
You can call me Mad Dawg. Yes, I know it’s weird, but every great baseball player has one. By “one” I mean a nickname. “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, Stan “The Man” Musial, and none other than the “Babe”. The legends. My head is always full of “useless baseball facts” as my mom calls them. Her opinions don’t really bother me though. I know I was meant to be out on that diamond. In the cool spring breeze, the sun shining down reflect...
“MADELINE MARIE ANN PARKER, Headmaster Smith warned you about being late.”
“But mom… I don’t wanna go!”
“I never asked for your opinion. You are going to come down these stairs and get walking to school! I’m sick and tired of…”
Here we go again. I get this speech almost every day.
“...your father and I pay too much money so you can go to a nice, private school. You should be grateful that you don’t have to go to that dump of a place they call a middle school!”
“Got it mom!” I yell as I run out the door while rolling my eyes. I go to a private school. Complete with snobby kids, uniforms that included a plaid skirt and white buttoned shirt (God forbid it be untucked) , and the one and only Headmaster Smith, who was a shrimp of a man. He hunched his shoulders everywhere he went. But no matter how puny he was, he always seemed to find a way to get me in trouble. It’s not that I liked being in trouble. Like they say, trouble just seems to find me.
Getting to school doesn’t take long. I just walk two blocks down, take a left, and there they are. The “prestigious” Providence School for Girls and Mountain Ridge Middle School (“that dump of a place”). They’re so close but yet so different. I would kill to be able to go to Mountain Ridge. They don’t wear uniforms, there’s no Headmaster Smith, and best of all they have baseball.
You have to pass Mountain Ridge to get to my school. That’s the worst part of my day. I brush past a group of boys, but suddenly stop in my tracks when I hear their conversation.
“Did you see the posters? Baseball tryouts are after school today at the diamond!” a blonde headed boy spat out excitedly.
I didn’t remember anything after that. It was my chance and I knew it. It’s like Tommy Lasorda always said, “There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.” I had to be the type of player who made it happen. Granted, I wasn’t officially a “player” yet, but I knew I would be. They had to let me tryout.
Lost in thought and excitement, I proceeded to skip right into the shrimp (Yes, Headmaster Smith. It’s supposed to be a joke, lighten up!).
“Madeline! Nice to see you’re on time for once! Wouldn’t want to give you after school detention again.” he weaseled out of his too pleasant mouth on his too pleasant face.
“Yep, no detention for me today!” I gritted out. But I was right. I couldn’t get detention, not today. I had business to take care of.
School was an absolute breeze. And that my friends, was an absolute lie. School was bad, worse than bad. It dragged on forever, and ever, and ever. The big hand moving around the clock was the only thing I could focus on. When the final bell rang, I ran to Mountain Ridge’s baseball diamond.
Peeking out from behind the dugout, I spotted the coach. I gathered up my courage and walked out on the field with my head down to not draw attention.
“Hey! Get off our field! Girls can’t play ball!” an indistinguishable voice yelled from a group of hopeful boys.
Hearing that, I raised my head high and strutted my way up to the coach. “I’m Madeline Parker, but you can call me Mad Dawg. And I’m here to tryout.” The coach slowly raised his gaze from the clipboard to look at me.
“Well...Mad Dawg, welcome to tryouts. Grab a bat and stand in line, we’ll be working on hitting first.”
I squealed and did a little happy dance. When my celebration came to its end, I realized everyone was staring at me. I quickly grabbed a bat from the rack and stood quietly at the back of the line. Every boy made solid contact with the ball, one almost hit a home run. I could only think that this was my chance. I saw myself on the team, one of the guys. Practicing, playing, and most of all loving the game. It was meant for me.
As the line got shorter and shorter, and I got closer and closer to the home plate, my hands started to sweat.
Wiping them off on my shirt, I realized that I was still in my uniform. It would have to do though. Gripping my bat I stepped up to the plate. I was staring destiny straight in the eyes. Well, actually I think his name was Ben, but just work with me here. I could hear the crickets singing their song and the catchers heavy breathing. The ball slid off his fingers in slow motion and then THWAM. But instead of making contact with the bat, the ball made contact with my eye. I spun around in a circle, and I could faintly hear a collection of oouu’s and ahh’s as I gracefully hit the dirt.
My eyes hesitantly cracked open. There was an overwhelming blinding light. I couldn’t move. My breathing grew heavy.
“Am I dead…?” I hesitantly croaked.
“Drop the shenanigan kid. You got hit with a baseball, not a bus.” an unbothered voice spoke to the left of me.
I looked around and realized I was in fact not dead, but in a too white chemical smelling nurses office. It was occupied with a nonchalant nurse who I’d never seen before reading a magazine.
“Is Nurse Jackson on vacation?” I asked confused.
“Who? Look kid, don’t play the whole brain damage act with me. They want you outside the principal’s office across the hall.” she said while carelessly flipping a page.
The principal’s office? Why, what did I do? I don’t remember getting in trouble today. Wait...we don’t even have a principal at Providence.
Bewildered, I slowly sat up and jumped off the nurse’s bed. However, I was not expecting to feel a dull pain around my left eye and stiffness in my knee. I looked down at the bandage on my knee and then back at the nurse. I stood there for a minute until she got up. She walked into the closet at the back of the room and came back with an ice pack.
“Put this on your eye. If it starts to hurt...well, tell someone else cause I’m off duty in eleven minutes.” She then proceeded to hand me the freezing ice pack and steered me out the door. Still confused about what exactly was happening, I turned around and looked down a very unfamiliar hall.
“Where am I?” I whispered to myself. My eyes were drawn to a bulletin board overflowing with papers.
“Mountain Ridge Middle School’s Annual Talent Show…” I whispered while tracing the bold letters with my finger. Turning around, I peeked through the cracked door next to me and saw the coach and a man who I’m guessing was the principal.
“I’m telling you sir, I don’t know where she came from! I thought she went to school here.” the coach explained.
“No no no, she has a uniform on! Think about all the paperwork! We could even get sued and…”
Everything rushed back to me, going to tryouts, getting hit with the ball, passing out. I reached my hand up to touch my eye and flinched when I made contact. “Ooh, this is great! I got a shiner!” I happily whispered to myself.