It is the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series. The score is tied. There are two outs and the bases are loaded. The loudspeaker blares, "Batting for the pitcher - Greg Schroeder!" I stand in the box and size up the pitcher. He's a wily old veteran reliever. I dig in.
The first pitch burns in low and away. I take it for ball one. The next pitch breaks over the center of the plate for a strike. The third pitch nicks the outside corner for strike two.
I ask for time to readjust myself in the box. When I'm settled the umpire calls, "Play ball!" The pitcher winds up, kicks, and throws. A slider high and tight1 Bat meets ball with a loud "crack" sending the ball over the leftfielder to the wall. The winning run scores and we are World Champions!
Alas, it is just a fantasy, a daydream of mine. Yet I try to make my fantasies, my daydreams, come true. Today, four months after my tenth birthday, I will take the first step in making that fantasy a reality. Today I will start my first Little League game.
As I don my catcher's equipment I look over the other team, the Cardinals. They have fifteen good athletes on their team, no slouches. No wonder they won every game they played last year. By comparison our team does not have overwhelming talent, we are not all superstars and we know it. Still we have an undying drive to win if possible and therefore are not intimidated by their unblemished record or superb appearance.
I crouch behind the plate, catch a few warm-ups from Gerry, our pitcher, and indicate to the umpire that we are ready. He yells, "batter up!" and the game begins.
The first inning is a disaster - four errors, one passed ball, one wild pitch, four walks, and two hits result in eight runs before we can get the side out. In our half the first two batters strike out before Gerry pops out to the shortstop and we are right back on the field.
Now Gerry bears down. He faces only four batters and strikes out three of them. However the batter he does not strike out sends one of his pitches over the rightfield fence for a homerun, giving the Cardinals a 9-0 lead.
Determined not, to stand idly by while they clobber us, we start attacking. Our first batter grounds out, but the next two stroke singles into left center. Steve, our third baseman, walks to load up the bases.
Now it is my turn to bat, my first at bat as an organized baseball player. The pitcher whips in a fastball that glances off my right shoulder to the backstop. I go to first base and our initial run scores. Three batters later we are back on the field down by just six, 9-3.
The third, fourth, and fifth innings pass by with us vainly trying to match the ever growing number of Cardinal runs. Now it is the last of the sixth, our last chance. Though we are down by eight, 37-29, not one of us does not believe we can and will win.
Bobby, our second baseman, helps to confirm our beliefs by drilling the very first pitch of the inning down the rightfield line for a triple.
Andy punches a pinch-single through the infield to score Bobby and trim the Cardinal lead to seven. Randy, our shortstop, hammers a double to center and Andy races home. Six runs to go.
Gerry steps in. Their pitcher is upset and sends his first pitch over the catcher to the backstop allowing Randy to take third. Gerry walks to bring up Eddie. Eddie, too, walks to load the bases. Unfortunately Chuck, our best hitter, strikes out for the first out. Bill walks to the plate. He allows the first pitch go by then drops the second in front of the centerfielder and behind the second baseman for a single. Gerry and Randy score to cut the Cardinal lead to four. Steve peps out for the second out and I step in.
I let the first two pitches sail outside before missing a fastball high and tight. The next pitch hits the dirt in front of the plate and bounds to the backstop allowing Eddie and Bill to advance. I foul off the next pitch to fill the count. The next pitch hurtles toward me. I time it perfectly and hit a hard chopper to short. It leaps off the shortstop's glove into leftfield. I end up on second, Eddie and Bill score and we are down by two, 37-35.
Bobby is up again and draws a walk. Their coach has finally had enough and changes pitchers.
Andy fouls off four straight pitches before straightening out the fifth. He hits it so hard I don't think anyone will ever find it. Bobby scores. I follow and Andy crosses the plate with the winning run!
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)