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Play Ball MAG
Sportscan be very humbling. And believe me, I know because I live to play sports. Lastsummer, my baseball team went to Canada for a tournament.
After winning afew games, we were in the semi-finals. The field was dusty and the mound high. Itwas hotter than blazes and the sweat was trickling down my back after warm-ups. Iwas playing third base, which meant that if we got into a jam, I was the go-toguy.
We were playing an undefeated team from Michigan and I could tellthis game was going to be a doozy. We stood on the foul line as we listened tothe Canadian national anthem and I couldn't help but think about the fundamentalsand go over situations in my head.
The umpire yelled, "Playball!" and the game began. Since we were the visiting team, we batted first.I was in my usual spot in the batting order - cleaning up, or batting fourth -which made me comfortable, mainly because baseball players are people ofsuperstition.
In the first inning, we scored two runs, but so did theother team. By the fourth inning, the score was 4-2 in their favor. In the sixthinning we came within one run and my adrenaline was pumping because our pitcherwas out, which meant I was the guy!
I remember the sweat on the ball andthe moisture on the brim of my cap. Warming up, I'd been nervous, but I knew thatwhen I hit the mound my mind would go blank and I would just throw theball.
Like every player, I have my ritual. I scratched three crosses inthe dirt for good luck, tipped my hat, checked my glove, and then tipped my hatonce more before I threw my first strike. After three outs, two of themstrike-outs, we came to bat.
We managed to scrape together one run, whichwe needed to stay in the game. Then it was a pitchers' duel, a stalemate for fourmore innings. In the eleventh inning I hit a double. Runners on second and thirdwith one out! Our next batter hit a blooper into left, scoring me, which was allwe needed, but we continued and put up five runs that inning.
In aseemingly safe position, I took the mound for the last time. The first batterstruck out. I had been accurate all day, but now my mind wandered and they scoredtwo runs. I followed that first strike with two balls. I knew my next pitch wasprobably the biggest of the game. I talked myself down and got down to business.I looked for the sign. A curve ball left my hand headed for the dirt. A swoosh ofthe bat and the count was evened! I was shocked that this monster actually swungat such a low pitch. I was just glad I had only one pitch left.
My palmswere sweaty and my cap was saturated. I looked up from my glove to the sign frommy catcher. Taking a step back, I started my motion. I put my right foot down onthe rubber and then with a mighty push, I lunged for the plate. My arm whippedand the ball flew through the air, cutting it with force. I glanced at the batterand my entire world was suddenly in slow motion. With one mighty swing of thebat, I listened for the sound of the aluminum against leather. All I heard was aswoosh and the pop of the ball into the catcher's mitt.
I had closed thegame with a strikeout, and for that one instant on the mound, I felt invincible.With my back against the wall, I had come through.