The Last Game This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I remember how the late afternoon sun kept getting in my eyes during my last game. I couldn't see home plate from my perch in left field. I kept putting my hand over my eyes to block it out. There was also an unusually large group of bugs that kept hovering about. On afternoons like that I wished for only two things: a pair of flip shades and a nice, big can of bug spray.

It was my last game in my long career of Little League baseball. I was playing for Lavallie Oil, and we were in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. We were facing our season rivals, the Pembroke Fire Department, also known as the PFD. We had finished first and second, respectively, and they had handed us our only two losses. We had nicknames for each other. We called them "Practically Fried Deadheads" and they called us the "Lazy Octopuses." We were out for blood that day, as was the crowd, which was growing in size for this great event. We hoped it would take the grounds crew hours to clean up the carnage when we were finished.

I was never a good fielder, but my hitting made up for it. I had hit .650 in the regular season and batted cleanup. But then the playoffs started, and my slump began. Going into this game I was four for 17, with no triples or home runs. I was one of those batters who either killed the ball or struck out. I had been having none of my usual flash at the plate in the playoffs. This game would be the time to break out of my slump.

We had an incredible pitcher on our team named Jody who led the league in wins and strikeouts. You were lucky to see the ball when he threw it over the plate. Jody should have started that day, but the parents pressured our coach into letting another kid named Josh start. Our coach gave in. It was one of the only mistakes he made all season.

Thanks to the wonderful pitching of Josh, we fell behind 8-0 after three innings. I struck out my first two times at bat and committed two errors. Things were really looking pretty grim, and the crowd's roar was not heard. It was like we were at a funeral. Our own.

But things began to turn around. We scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth, and the crowd loved it. They were screaming for more. Now the funeral would end and the party would begin. Maybe we had a chance after all.

In the fifth, we replaced Josh with our only southpaw, Wayne. He was very small, maybe five feet tall, and a little on the heavy side. He reminded me of an avocado, but he proved to be no vegetable on the mound, pitching a perfect inning. We were still down 14-2, because PFD had scored six runs in the fourth. We needed a miracle. Maybe a little grace from God, or a favor. But we almost pulled off our own miracle, without any divine help.

We started the fifth at the top of our lineup. The first three batters got on base, and then it was my turn. The pitcher, Mark, had the Mississippi running down his forehead, but I remained calm. The crowd roared and I decided to satisfy the roar. I hit an RBI double on the first pitch, and the crowd ate it up. The blood was beginning to flow, and by the time the inning was over we had scored our max of six runs. The comeback was coming along quite well.

Wayne pitched another perfect inning.

Sitting in the dugout in the bottom of the six, I was more nervous than I had ever been. I could feel the pressure like a great weight on my chest. Now was the time. I felt like I was in the movie "The Natural." We were at the top of our lineup. We needed our six runs to tie up the game and continue the slaughter.

Our first batter struck out.

Our second batter walked.

Our third batter popped out.

My turn.

It was my chance now, my chance to show just why I had led the league in hitting all year. I stepped up and dug in. The crowd was silent. Nothing existed except the pitcher and me. We were in our own little world. And I was about to shatter it.

First pitch: BALL?

Second pitch: BALL TWO

Third pitch: STRIKE ONE!

No more balls, no more strikes. This one was going to go all the way. Mark reared back and delivered, and I swung with all the power in me.

I barely beat the throw to first.

Our next batter struck out. Game over. Final score: PFD 14, Lavallie Oil 8.

The crowd was deprived of its feast and said nothing. PFD would have drowned it out anyway with all its cheering.

We gave them the traditional high-fives. I was not disappointed, just sad that it was over. No more practices, no more games in the hot sun. They went on to win the championship. I went home to bed.

I still think of that game a lot. I wish I could be back there now, with the hot sun on my face. But this time, I would have a pair of flip shades and a nice, big can of bug spray. fl




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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