This is a story about Smitty, a 13-year-old from the wrong side of town. Like any kid he is trying to find his way into being a teen-ager. At the center of the story is this homerun hit by the New Kid.
Here’s is Smitty’s description:
Who could have figured that one hit would have made so much difference? Guys had hit home runs before. Tommy had hit five already.
It wasn’t even the game-winner. We were eight runs ahead when the New Kid came up. But something changed.
The New Kid always used this weird little bat. The first time we saw it way back at the beginning of the season when Coach dumped out the bat bag for the first time; nobody touched it. It just sat in the dust like a bone or something that just appeared, an ancient relic dug up when some runner slid into a base. It had a skinny barrel, maybe four inches around, and the handle tapered down to a little nub. There didn’t seem to be any writing on it, you know, like a brand name or anyone’s signature burned into the wood; I mean it wasn’t a Roger Maris model by a long shot. It looked like a Little League bat, except none of us had ever seen one that looked so old. Tommy said he bet that Ron had carved it from a tree branch, it looked so odd. Ronnie carried this big-ass knife and was always carving stuff.
We all stood around it just looking at it, like we were waiting for it to, I don’t know, talk or something. Finally the New Kid pushed into the circle and picked up the little bat. He examined it end to end, banged the handle on home plate a couple of times and said, “Well, it ain’t broken. Maybe it’s got some hits in it.” Then he walked away. Sometimes we had trouble figuring out the New Kid.
How many hits that little bat had in it nobody could know. But it had one home run.
It happened in the fifth inning and we were way ahead.
Their pitcher was supposed to be some Little League ace. Well, this wasn’t Little League and we were shelling him. Not that it mattered who threw the ball.
I was on deck, just watching as the New Kid batted. He had a slight crouch and rocked his shoulders forward so that his left arm was slightly below his right when he swung. The kid pitcher threw the ball toward the plate, and the New Kid swung.
When the ball hit the bat it was the loudest crack I had ever heard, like the sky opened up.
For an instant everyone on the field except the left fielder and the New Kid just stood and stared into the sky over left. There was no sound except for the soft
puff-puff of the New Kid’s spikes pounding the dust of the base path as he ran hard. “Slow down,” someone said as he charged into second, tagged the bag and made the turn for third. “It hasn’t even landed yet.”
And it wouldn’t for several more seconds. The New Kid glanced over his right shoulder to find the ball and then straightened up; he slowed his dash to a trot, then to a walk. On third, he joined the standing players watching as the ball landed soundlessly at the other end of the park.
It hit once and rolled to a stop near the pitcher’s mound on the other diamond. It had to be four hundred feet if it was an inch.
For a moment the only person moving was the left fielder. When the ball was hit, he stood still a second — he just raised his head, trying to pick up the ball’s flight out of the blue sky beyond — and then he slowly turned and ran back. In a second he was tearing back as fast as he could, head down, arms and glove flying all over the place. When he looked up again a few steps later, the ball had already overtaken him and was still climbing in its massive arc. The fielder turned in a complete circle, looking back for the ball while still running forward, and then stumbled as he turned again running after the sphere, not to catch it, but to retrieve it. Then he, too, stopped running. The ball landed still a hundred feet beyond him. He threw his glove at it.
I had never seen a ball hit that far or that high. I was standing at attention just watching when I became aware that Ray and Tommy were at my side. The three of us stood in silent awe as the ball dropped from the clear blue sky through a green stripe of trees and then landed and bounced once, as if dropped from a passing plane. It seemed so far away.
The ball seemed to be something other than an object struck by a wooden bat and sent sailing through the air over the park; it was more like a bird, something with an intelligence of its own, or like time itself moving as we stopped to gaze and wonder.
After the ball landed, the New Kid stepped on third base and completed in a slow trot the circling of the bases. When he finally crossed home plate and returned to the bench, all anyone could say was, “Nice hit.” We were in shock that the ball went that far. Who was this kid, Superman? A couple of us grinned at him when he sat on the bench and took a swig of his Coke. “Way to go,” someone else said. The New Kid wiped his face with his sleeve and looked at the ground and smiled. “Thanks,” he said, and then stared out into left field where his home run had landed.
“The Summer of the Home Run” is available at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/299057
Also available, “The Resurrection of Leo and Other Stories: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/282799