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Cold, gray skies, casting a blanket of quiet over the brown field. The brown grass in the outfield is turning faintly green here at the end of winter.
The faint smell of leather is on the air, coupled with the smell of faraway rain.
I twist my fingers through the cold metal mesh of the fence and follow the subtle movements of the opposing team's pitcher with my eyes. A tiny nod to the catcher. A slight narrowing of his blue eyes. He swings his arm back and throws the ball. The batter swings and misses, the metal bat slicing through the quiet air like a whip. The ball finds the catcher's mitt with the distinctive thud of leather on leather. Our batter has struck out, but he never betrays frustration. The players switch, marking the end of the second inning.
Our team takes the outfield and the bases in their black and gold jerseys, pure focus etched into each face.
The pitcher takes the mound, smacking his fist into his glove decisively, jaw set and eyes narrow. The boy who was pitching for the other team only minutes ago dons a helmet and grabs a bat, twirling it in his left hand as he steps up to the plate.
The catcher squats down as the pitcher hides the ball behind his glove and his brown eyes beneath the brim of his baseball hat. I see his shoulders rise and fall as he takes a breath before coiling his arm back and flinging it towards home plate with incredible power. The ball leaves his outstretched fingertips and soars in a graceful curve to meet the bat.
The bat collides with the ball, sending a sharp clink through the gray air as the batter throws down the bat with a thud and races for first. In the outfield, players are running for the ball, trying to catch it before it can touch the ground. I watch them run faster than sound, taking in the silent grace of the sport.
One boy reaches up, and even across the field, I hear the distinctive thwacking sound of the ball as it smacks into the palm of a glove. The opposing batter is out, and I see a minuscule smile brighten the blond pitcher's face.
The coach stamps his feet, trying to keep warm in the March dusk.
My fingers are icy from holding on to the cold mesh of the fence, but I don't notice, because the pitcher's eyes have fallen on me. 'The' smile brightens his face as his eyes burn into mine. My frozen face smiles in return. At least, I think it does.
He lifts his hand in greeting, and I mouth the word, 'hey'.
I came to this cold, quiet field to support the boy I like. Some might argue that it's only a JV game, but for us there is so much more that depends on tonight.
I am here, freezing, for him and him alone, win or lose. Now, though, I realize that I'm not just falling in love with my friend.
I am falling in love with the silent grace and hidden strength of the sport of baseball.