November 2, 2009
By , Henrico, VA
"Strike two!” The umpire’s bellowing call breaks through my thin bubble of focus. I force myself to look up at the plate. My eyes connect with Erin’s and my heart plummets painfully to my old, dirt covered cleats. There’s only one thing those normally confident eyes convey to me –this girl can pitch.- As my hands grip my bat with blistering force, something else grips my insides. Suddenly my breath is short and grainy. My arms feel like there are no bones left, any hint of their former power gone. My legs are cemented to my place in the on deck circle. As I lift my old, bruised and battered Demarini to my shoulder it grows one hundred pounds heavier. My arms swoop back toward the ground, an echo of my former swing. “Strike three!” The umpire shouts the most hated, feared words imaginable in my life. Erin’s out. My breath catches in my lungs. She trudges toward the dugout, head hanging, bat dragging behind her. I try to swallow, but my mouth is empty. Shouts come at me from every direction. “Two down! Play’s at one!” The other team screams on the field. “Good job ladies! One more!” Their coach claps his hands, their sound like thunder in my ears. “Let’s go now 12! You got this! Hit ‘er home!” Our fans explode. “Hit it, rip it…” Cheers erupt from the dugout. My mind is in a haze. The world is spinning. Every sound is magnified by one thousand percent as I make my way, numbly toward the sacred plate. I glance at the pitcher, standing like Zeus on Mount Olympus. Her lips curl up in a menacing smirk. Again I feel something gripping, tugging, knotting my insides. Using all the strength I can summon, I close off my ears. All the sounds vanish. Then the umpire’s voice crashes through my invisible barrier. “Batter up!”

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