Slugger

“Lillian! You’re up!” I heard the coach yell to me. I was sitting in the corner of the dugout gripping my bat, wishing I didn’t have to move. Even at age thirteen, I could tell the situation was crucial and extremely intense. Ninth inning. Tied game. Two outs. And I, the youngest player on the team, was up to bat. As I trudged unwillingly towards the front of the dugout to grab my helmet, I heard the other girls complaining.
“Coach,” one of them said. “Why her?” She knew I could hear her. The coach just shrugged and stared at the batting order in his hand hopefully.

I picked up my black plastic helmet and walked slowly towards home plate. I felt the eyes of the parents sitting on the bleachers on my back. Mothers whispering that their child should be up at bat instead of me. I looked at my coach. He seemed to be pondering something. He looked up and met my eyes.
“Take the walk,” he said to me “Please, take the walk.” Because of my short size then, he tended to say that every time I went up to bat. I suddenly felt small and helpless. I shook my head, but he just nodded. I bit my lip and dragged my feet to the plate.

Dust clouded my eyes as I took my position. I looked up at the pitcher’s mound and my jaw fell open. There I saw the biggest, meanest looking pitcher I had ever laid eyes on. She held the large softball in her hand, looking like she’d crush it right then and there. My heart thudded loudly in my chest and I felt like throwing up. I had never been exposed to this kind of pressure before. “Batter up!” the umpire roared. I quickly got into my stance, praying for mercy. I adjusted my helmet and felt the rubber coating on the handle of the bat in my tiny hands.

She wound up, and the ball came soaring down the line. I swung hard, even though I didn’t stand a chance. “Strike!” the umpire yelled. I could hear my teammates moaning in the dugout. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and I felt chills running through my entire body. I looked at my coach, as if he could help me. He shook his head and mouthed “Don’t swing!” I breathed heavily unsure of what to do. I moved up towards the plate and smoothed my sweaty palms on my softball shorts. The pitcher laughed and threw the ball so fast I barely saw it. Even so, I swung at the last possible second. I turned around and looked at the umpire, but I knew what was coming. “Strike two!” he said.

Just then, I saw three things all at once; my coach shaking his head in shame, my teammates yelling at me with disappointed looks. And last of all, amid angry parents, I saw my father standing up on the bleachers staring at me with a sad look. When he saw me glance in his direction, my dad smiled. I tried to smile back but I couldn’t. I signaled for a time out and I ran the fence and beckoned for my father to come up. He practically jumped off the bleachers and hurried over to me. He looked at me through the cold metal fence and said with a grin, “C’mon Slugger, you’ve got this.” I smiled widely and I felt my confidence slowly returning to me. I strutted over the plate, stared right into the pitcher’s eyes and tried not to listen when my entire team screamed in unison “Lillian, don’t swing!” I crouched into my stance and waited for the pitch.
All of a sudden, I heard a loud Crack! I dropped my bat and looked around wondering where the sound had come from. Then I heard the crowds yelling. “RUN! RUN! RUN!” they shouted. All the parents on the bleachers were standing up now.

I looked and saw the left fielder turned around, searching frantically. She leaned over and appeared with a round white object in her hand. I realized it was the ball.
I didn’t think, I just ran. I ran like mad, rounding first base in seconds. The out fielder threw to second and I thought I was out. Somehow, she overthrew and I was near third. As I hurried across the base, I looked to my left and saw the second base-man throwing to the catcher. I ran as fast as I could, the adrenaline rushing through my veins. I slid into home plate, slamming into the catcher. My hand hit her face mask and I tried to shift my leg so that I was clearly on top of the base. The crowd was quiet. As the dust settled, the umpire peered over the both of us. The catcher had her glove on my arm…but where was the ball? It was sitting right in front of us, not touching me at all. “Safe!” the umpire called out. “The runner is safe!” I slumped down onto the ground in relief. Then the crowd was cheering so loudly I could hear nothing else.

I smiled as my eyes searched the roaring crowd for my father. All at once, I saw him standing at the fence, his grin from ear to ear. I stood up and walked through the dugout and out near the bleachers. I ran to my dad and he scooped me up in his arms. When my dad put me down, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Nice job, kid.”
“Thanks Dad.” I replied.





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Kass said...
Feb. 2, 2010 at 8:24 am
I love this story! It really took me back to my softball days. Thanks Lilli, you are a very descriptive and lively writer! I can't wait to see whats next from you!
 
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