Just Another Ballgame

October 28, 2011
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The ominous silence of the crowd was all he could hear as he walked up the box. Looking around the vast field of dirt and grass, the cool breeze against John’s face, everyone had their attention to him. It’s the bottom of the ninth inning with 2 outs and they are down by one. He looked at his teammates at first and second base as they take their lead. It felt like the weight of the world was on him. He was the Ram’s last chance to win the state championship.

John took a deep breath, tapped home plate with his bat and looked at the intimidating stance of the pitcher. The pitcher had his right foot on the rubber, the baseball in his right hand his head turned toward the plate, communicating with his catcher. John, trying to guess what pitch may come thought about all the time he had spent in the batting cages and the way his dad had taught him how to hit. Then as if a lightning bolt hit the ground where he stood, he jumped out of the batter’s box. John needed more time. More time to clear his mind and find inspiration. He knew his dad is somewhere in the stands, in the sea of black and blue hoping for the best. He knew that his teammates had their trust in him. He knew what he had to do: “Don’t make the final out.” He told himself. “Put the ball in play for the next batter.” After taking a couple practice swings he was ready.

“STRIKE!” the silence was broken by the home plate umpire. Like a bullet the pitcher threw his first pitch. It was a fastball right on the inside corner of the strike zone. “Put the ball in play” repeated John in his mind as the pitcher gets ready for the second pitch of the at-bat. John concentrated hard, blocked everything out of his mind and anticipated the pitcher’s next move. He saw the pitcher shake his head in disagreement with the signs that the catcher has been laying out then finally gave a simple nod before delivering the pitch. The ball started high and curved slowly down to the middle of the plate. It was a hanging curve ball and John knew this was his pitch. With all the strength he has he turned his hips as he swung the bat and heard a loud sound. He missed it. Disappointed at himself he knew that he needed to at least make contact and keep the game going.

With the count 0-2 to John he had in mind that the pitcher would be gunning for the strike out. The third pitch was another curve ball, this time it was low and in the dirt as the catcher had to make an excellent play of preventing it from getting past him. The next pitch was a high fastball, a very tempting pitch but John was wise to lay off for ball two. Then another fastball came heading to the middle of the strike zone. John was halfway through a full swing when he recognized that the pitch was tailing in out of the strike zone and was just in time to hold it back. The catcher didn’t agree with the call by the umpire but argued to no avail. Now on a full count 3-2 with 2 outs, the runners will be off and running as the pitch is delivered giving the Rams a better opportunity to score and at least tie the game. “Put the ball in play” John whispered.
His heart thumping, the sixth pitch was thrown. It was another hanging curve ball at the same location as the last one. John braced himself and swung the bat. An eruption of cheers and excitement filled the stadium as the ball whizzed past the third baseman down the left field line and back towards the fence. The runner on second easily scored and tied the game and as John was rounding first base, he saw that the runner from first was being waved home by the third base coach. The left fielder got to the ball but by the time the throw to the plate was cut off, the runner was already more than halfway there. The crowd went crazy as the second runner crossed the plate and John was mobbed by his teammates. He was filled with joy and excitement that he had just led the team to a stunning walk-off victory and underneath a pile of players, teammates, and friends was John, a Champion.

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