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Hero For a Day
While this story is true, I'm much more interested in fiction. As a result, I am in the process of fictionalizing this memory. Look for an updated version of this story very soon. thanks for reading!
I remember stepping up the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning- the last inning in little league. My team had entered the inning trailing 8 runs to 2, largely because of a three run error I committed the previous inning at second base. This was why I was primarily a first baseman, pitcher and right fielder. Defense was not my strong suit.
I was up at the plate with the bases loaded and the score tied at 8. I was a skinny, lanky little kid. I didn’t have much power, but I had a good eye. I walked a lot. My 12 year old body had not yet grown into itself.
The bases were loaded with my junior high tormentors. Seamus O’Malley was at first, Tyler Berglund was at second and Joey Commons was at third. They were sneering at me. I was anticipating the beating I would be receiving at school on Monday and cursed the league rules that allowed all of us to be on the same team together.
I could be a hero. I could stave off a beating and be a hero. It was all on me. We could win the game now, with me at the plate, or go into extra innings. A six run inning was a good thing, a great thing, but it would all be for nothing if I failed in this at bat.
I banged the aluminum Louisville Slugger against my plastic cleats. The smell of fresh grass entered my nostrils. I stepped up to the plate, put the bat on my shoulder, crouched slightly and stared at the pitcher, sixty feet away.
He was one of my friends, Erik Nelson, and I relished the irony of my enemies on base, rooting against me, and my friend, pitching against me, also hoping I would fail. He was tall and lanky, had a huge overbite and dark eyes that were almost invisible under his baseball cap.
The sun was out in left field. I was staring directly into it. I was not wearing eye black.
The first pitch came.
“Good eye, son. Good eye.” Coach clapped.
“Wait for your pitch, son. That’s alright.”
“Way to lay off that one.
“Come on, ump. That was a perfect pitch,” Erik Nelson yelled. This was unorthodox. You did not yell at umpires in little league. It was poor sportsmanship, and little league, of course, was all about sportsmanship. At third base, Joey Commons was sneering at me. His teeth were yellow and he looked very ugly.
“Good cut. You’ll get the next one!” Coach again.
Three balls. Two strikes. Full count. Two outs. Tie game. Bottom of the last inning. Bases loaded. My tormenters staring daggers at me on the base paths.
I asked the ump for a time out. I stepped out of the batters box and took a deep breath. I stepped back up to the plate, tapped my bat on home plate and returned it to my shoulder.
Erik Nelson hunched over and looked into his catcher’s eyes. He shook his head once. Twice. Nodded. Leaned back. He put the ball into his mitt. The world was moving in slow motion. The world had gone silent. I watched him. Focused. He started his wind up. He kicked his leg, emulating Catfish Hunter, his favorite pitcher. And mine. The ball left his right hand and hurtled towards me at sixty miles an hour. My bat left my shoulder. I kicked my leg. My bat hit the ball. The ball left my bat in a perfect arc and landed in shallow center field, inches above the outstretched hand of the second baseman. Joey Commons crossed home and leapt into the air. My foot touched first base. My arms raised in triumph. My voice let out a cheer. My team won the game!
And I was the hero.
All rights reserved. Copyright Justin W. Price, June 2011