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Terry and Baseball
Terry closed his eyes and ears shut. His parents were fighting yet again, only this time it seemed as if they were arguing over who got to take the car to work the next day. Usually they fight about Terry’s grades.
Terry Armstrong is a 14 year resident of Nebraska, standing in at a height of 5 foot 10 inches, and weighing 143 pounds. No one really believes that the sport of baseball needs a specific size for the players, but let me tell you, Terry’s size didn’t matter in his play. He was a baseball player. Nothing else. He wasn’t a student athlete, there wasn’t any motivation for one. He wasn’t a family kid, everyone in it fought constantly. He was a baseball player. Everyone in town knew it, and respected him for it. It was pretty much the only thing people admired him for, and even the only thing Terry appreciated himself for.
He lives in a one story house with his two parents, Sharon and William, who are divorced. His sister, Samantha, once lived with them but decided one day to move out due to the quarreling. (Terry wishes he could do this, but he knows that if he were to run away from home, his dreams of joining the Nebraska state team would be slim.) The fighting that goes on between his parents is unbearable for Terry. He wishes every day and night that one of them one day would pool enough money up to rent out an apartment somewhere far away, but this also is a far fletched idea. So Terry went on with his life, hoping that baseball would continue to go well for him and that he’d find inspiration somewhere for school.
One day Terry came home from school, note in hand. He trudged through the thick mud that had accumulated on the sidewalk with his head down. He was aware that the note stated that if he didn’t get his grades up, he’d be put on suspension from his school. He thought about throwing it into the mud for a second, but quickly decided against it knowing that he needed to return it to his counselor signed by his parents. This made him even more scared. The thought of having to give this to his parents made him tremble.
He walked in the door, his mom on the couch watching TV and his dad eating a bowl of cereal in his room watching the very same show Terry’s mom is watching on his bed. This summarized the Armstrong’s life quite nicely.
“Mom, I’m home from school,” Terry blared to his mom over the TV. “Oh, hey honey,” she replied, getting up from her spot on the couch. “How was your day?” She asked, in sort of a disappointed way after spotting the note in Terry’s hand. Terry didn’t say anything, he just passed the small piece of paper into her hands. After a few minutes looking it over, Sharon just gave Terry a cast down look. “You know what this means right?” She asked him. He didn’t even respond, he walked to the back of the house towards his room, not even stopping to say hi to his dad.
Terry thought about his sister and how she was doing in her new home. He though about how much he wanted that for him, just that and his baseball team. “That’s all I need,” Terry convinced himself. Thinking of this reminded him of his 4:30 baseball practice, so he arose from his bed to head out the door.
“Could I get a ride to practice Mom?” He asked in a half-hearted way knowing that there was going to be no way she would be willing to take him across the city. “Sorry hun, the car’s out of gas. Maybe I’ll be able to take you on Thursday if I get a chance to fill it up again.”
This is another note on the Armstrong family. They’re in need of money. If they had it, they’d be doing much, much better. Either Sharon or William could get their own place to live, hire a tutor for Terry, or even just not having it an issue to fill up the gas tank when it’s empty. Money rules the world, and very much in this case rules the Armstrongs.
“Where are your baseball pants?” Coach Smith questioned Terry as he walked onto the diamond. “One of my pairs are in the wash, the other’s getting sewn up. It’ll be done in a couple days probably.” Knowing Terry was short of money, the coach laid off on him on the subject. “How about you head into the batter’s box and take a couple of swings to get warmed up?” Coach smith mentioned to Terry, passing him a pair of batting gloves. “And you can keep the gloves,” winking at him. Elated, Terry strapped them on and starting taking rips in the batter’s box. The rest of the team took their swings in during batting practice, did some infield drills, some conditioning, and then practice was over. The team preceded to the dugout to hear the pep talk from Coach Smith. “Alright boys, good job today. I want you all to know that we are to be advancing the the finals next week.” The boys erupted in cheer, as the coach stayed very solemn. “This will most likely be one of the most important games of your lives, so I need you all right now to make an oath to this team that on Wednesday next week you will give it your very all. One-hundred percent. You boys need to be focused, with every bit of your mind concentrated on the game. We’ve played our opponent before, and the results the first time weren’t pretty on our hand. You guys need to swear to me that you’ll give it your all on that day not only for the team, but for yourselves. You got me?” Afterward, Coach Smith made everyone sign a paper sealing their promise to him. The team, still cheering, filed their way out of the dugout to their parents cars.
“Terry, hold up a sec,” Coach Smith said as he stopped Terry from leaving. “What’s that Coach?” Terry replied. Coach gave out one long sigh and looked at Terry in his eyes. “I know about your performance in school, and how things are going for you at a personal level at home. I made you make an oath to me on how you’ll give it your all for me next week? Well I’m now going to tell you that I’m promising you that I’m here to talk to whenever you need someone.” Coach sighed again. “I’ve been in your shoes before growing up as well. My parents broke up when I was only 4 years old and I lived with my mom my whole life. I barely ever talked to my dad. Baseball was my way of getting away from it all, except the thing was, I didn’t have talent anywhere close to the point where you have it. You’re one talented young man, Terry. There will be scouts for the Under-15 state team this weekend at the game. Step your game up for yourself. You’re obviously a part of this team, but I understand the times you’ve been going through and you need this for yourself. I’ll put in a good word for you, but it’s mainly going to be based on what you put out on that field on Wednesday. I’m here for you Terry. Call me whenever you need to.” And with that, Terry packed up his bag and walked to the bus stop, thinking things over.
The next couple of days rolled on by with nothing out of the ordinary occurring. On Thursday he was assigned a test that was going to bring his math grade up to an A, if he were to somehow ace it. Out of all his teachers, Terry liked his math one the best, so he decided to study hard for the test. He worked out every single problem on the study guide he recently received, and asked his teacher for help on any one he didn’t get. The test was going to be hard, but Terry knew that if he were to continue to study hard, getting an A would be an achievable task. He thought to himself that maybe if he were to get one of his grades up, he’d have some motivation to work on all of his subjects. And then maybe from there, his parents would stop fighting so much. “It all just starts out with some motivation,” Terry thought to himself. “I gotta do good on this test.”
Things at home stayed the same for Terry. The fighting never ceased, and it seemed like things would never change if Terry didn’t took advantage of his grades. Samantha basically lived in the living room, watching TV and getting up for the occasional snack from the kitchen. William mostly stayed in his room, reading. He was more the intellectual type. He felt as if sports and TV were a waste of time. He never really helped Terry out much with his studies, and told him that if he wasn’t playing baseball, all the problems they had would be solved. Samantha rooted for Terry in almost anything he did. Even if she was the one who could be classified as a “couch potato.”
The weekend passed by, with Terry spending all of Saturday at the park playing catch with his coach, and Sunday studying for his test. Terry felt as if there was a fire lit inside himself. He suddenly had the feeling of striving to become a “student athlete,” instead of just the athlete. He knew that he needed to do everything he could to help his family out, even if it was just scoring well on one test. Terry knew what it took, and he took a mental commitment to continue even after this test to work on becoming a better “student athlete” day after day. The day came to take his test, and Terry worked every single problem out fully just like he did at home. He never trusted things to be kept in his head, and wrote everything down on the paper. He finished the last problem just as the bell rang for class dismissal. Crossing his fingers, Terry signed his name and dated the paper at the top and handed it into his teacher. He was informed that his test results would be told to him, the very next day Wednesday after school! Terry immediately had the feeling of winning the game and knowing he scored well on the test.
Before he knew it, Wednesday dawned upon Terry. He sat on his bed an hour before school started, wondering about how this day would turn out. It could very much be a turning point for his life. If he was chosen for the state team, his dream would come true. And if per chance he scored well on the test, family things would get better. The school day breezed by for Terry. Soon enough, he was in the dugout, ready for what was to be the biggest game of his life.
The game went by pretty quickly in the early innings. Each team scored here and there, and it was tied 2-2 by the 8th inning. Terry was pitching a terrific game, and had batted in one the of two runs for his team. In a turn of events, the third baseman on Terry’s team lined a home run over the left field fence, giving them a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 8th. It was all up to Terry to hold them off for three more outs. While everyone was seeming to bite their nails, Terry wasted no time. He struck out the side on 13 straight pitches. After the last out, Terry ran up to his catcher and knocked him down with a great hug.
As the celebrations went on, Coach Smith pulled Terry aside to talk to him, with a smile on his face. Terry was pretty sure he knew what he was going to say.
“You’ve been nominated!” Coach told him. Without saying a word, Terry hugged him as hard as he could. His dream had come through. “Your first practice is next week. Congratulations Terry, you couldn’t have made me prouder. There isn’t a finer selection for the team that I’m aware of. You earned it boy. Now go celebrate.”
One of Terry’s teammates came up to him and asked if he wanted to come to his house along with the rest of the team for an after party. He agreed, but knew first he needed to find out his math score from his parents. After a few minutes searching for them, he found them talking to some other parents near the entrance to the field, surprisingly together. They embraced him like they never had before.
“We’re so proud of you!” His mom shouted to him. “You played amazing sweetie. I heard of your nomination to the state team also! I’ll make sure to fill up the gas tank to take you to your practice next week.” This put an even bigger smile on Terry’s face. Before he even had to ask, his mom told him his test score, a B plus.
For Terry, everything went right that day. He proved everyone that hard work truly does pay off. As he was driving to the after party in his friends car, he took a look out the window. Terry was pretty sure he caught a glimpse of his parents, holding hands, for the first time in a very long while.