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Overcoming: A Memoir

The bell rang, interrupting my well-deserved nap. Jeez, I thought, time to go already? School was especially boring and life-sucking that day, and it was all I could do to save most of my energy for the game instead of wasting it on paying attention in the classes I was already acing. I gathered up my things, eager to escape from Mrs. Stewart’s class, a place more reminiscent of a prison cell than a location suited to molding young minds. I passed by Stephen and Hayden’s lockers, no time to talk. Hey bro, where you heading? Stephen yelled over the dull roar of north hall. Baseball, I hollered back, Adamsville today. I strutted into the parking lot, felt the excitement ooze from every single pore in by body as I popped my trunk to get my bag out. As I walked back towards the school, I noticed how beautiful it was outside. The sun shined without a cloud in sight, a lonely yellow raft stationary in a massive sea. I heard a mockingbird serenading to nobody in particular in one of the many oak trees surrounding the campus, as well as the sounds of cars cranking to life in the parking lot as its host of occupants wished to make good their escape.

So who’s pitching today? I asked Coleraine as I climbed onto the crappy bus. I told you during lunch that Collin is, you can chill out, replied my assistant coach that had become one of my best friends since he came to Chester County. I promise he could have passed for a teenager, especially if you knew how immature he was. Anyway, I was pumped that I wasn’t pitching. I hated pitching. I took my usual seat in the front of the bus adjacent to his, exactly two seats behind Coach Goff. Melaro, you feeling good? came his usual greeting. Like a million bucks, Honcho, I said without skipping a beat. He joked about me taking the day off and riding the bench, and I said, Good idea, Gavin needs his shot in center field. Of course, I would have burned down a public building with everyone in it if I’d missed that game, but nobody needed to know that.

Our usual talks on the bus consisted of girls we thought were hot, arguing over why the Braves and the Cardinals are superior to each other, and how I’d managed to get out of trouble in school that day. It never failed. That day Mrs. Stewart had sent me to the office because I didn’t want to sit in my assigned seat. That’s what happens when my friend Arthur’s seat is in the back of the class and mine is in the front. But then again, authority and I have never been on the best of terms. I did warn her, but she didn’t believe me when I told her I had friends in the office and she should just let it go. She found out the hard way when I strutted back in twenty minutes later. Coleraine told me to cut it out because he was tired of cleaning up my messes, so I agreed to take it easy in there. It sounds terrible, but it seems that no matter how hard I try, I can’t get into any real trouble. I actually believe I enjoy doing all the stupid and illegal things I do because I want to get in trouble. I mean, you only live once, right?

The AC on the bus doesn’t work, so we were all drenched with sweat after the hour long ride to Adamsville. I let everyone off the bus first, and visualized how I was single-handedly going to win the game for us that day. I figured a walk-off homerun would suffice, and then we’d celebrate on the mound, and then—Hey, hurry up before they start warming up without you again, Coleraine said. Come on, man, I was getting to the best part of my daydream! I yelled. Whatever, he said. Anyways, you talk to Taylor lately? I couldn’t believe he brought up the girl that had just dumped me a couple nights before right before a game as big as Adamsville. I knew he was just trying to help, and I knew my sulking in front of everyone the day before demonstrated how I wasn’t exactly excited over the breakup, but I just wanted to push those cancerous thoughts to the back of my mind before they ruined that day too. Nah man, she’s got better stuff to do than talk to some stud baseball player with perfect grades and a charming personality. She must have finally figured she was out of my league, I said sarcastically with a forced smile on my face. Ha, well, I heard she was already talking to that pitcher from Adamsville that you like so much, replied Coleraine. What’s his name? John Ray? I remember processing how many ways my assistant coach could wind up missing and where I could get a good alibi from before I corrected him. John Reed. Good one, I congratulated him. You’ve successfully pissed me off. Good, he said.

As per our ritual, we both stopped by the concession stand for a Snickers and a Gatorade. To prove a point to Coleraine, I hit on the fairly attractive blonde working it and got her number after one more precisely timed compliment. Turns out she was dating John Reed at the time. Perfect. Taylor won’t like that, Coleraine joked. I know, I thought, I hated every second of talking to that blonde. If I could charm someone I’d never met before, you’d figure I could give Taylor, a girl I’d been close to for months, what she wanted, right? My usual pregame butterflies were felt more like pterodactyls that day.

I could feel the cold sweat drip down my back, feel the earth beneath me battle with the spikes on my cleats as I took my first steps towards the gap. I could hear the roar emanating from the mass of fans in Adamsville’s bleachers as the ball left the bat, yet they sounded so distant, like they were miles away. I let go of everything in my mind. My fiasco with Mrs. Stewart that day, my breakup with Taylor, the burning ache in my leg from sliding into second in the third inning, everything. I forgot what inning it was, what the score was, what I had for lunch that day. I devoted every fiber of my mind and being to tracking down that small orb of white leather with red laces as it flew seemingly at the speed of light towards the gap in left center. I gave myself an ultimatum. I would not survive unless I caught that ball. I felt the pull of gravity lose its grasp on me as I launched myself off of the ground, stretched out as far as I could so that perhaps my glove and the ball’s path would intersect at that one particular location in time and space. I hit the ground hard, awkwardly, and slid at least ten feet over the unforgiving ground into the even more unforgiving fence. It slowly started coming back to me. It was the seventh inning and we were up by a run. My girlfriend, my best friend, had gotten rid of me for reasons I could have controlled, but didn’t. I was probably going to have detention tomorrow for smarting off to Mrs. Stewart… Over the roar of the crowd, I glanced at the ball in my glove, and thought to myself, All that can wait.

That ride home was spent in hard-earned silence, the wind rushing through the windows to bathe us in its victory breeze. I passed the time staring at the stars in the sky as we made our way home on that desolate strip of Highway 45. At that instant, in that hot, sticky leather bus seat, with no one to keep me company save for the sweaty teenage boys slumbering in the aisle of seats, I realized that victory wouldn’t taste so sweet if it were not for the bitterness of defeat. At that instant I decided that life couldn’t defeat me anymore, because I was a winner, and I could overcome anything.





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