With the World Series about to start, here’s a sample from my story, “The Summer of the Home Run.”
“The Summer of the Home Run” is available at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/299057
“Anyway, on this particular day, I was out at short just minding my own business and kicking at the ground — infielders just naturally do those kinds of things between pitches. Of course on our field, it was self-defense. Sometimes the ruts in the base paths eluded all of Darren’s good intentions and by mid-summer were hard as a rock. The ball sometimes hit the edge of a rut and rocketed over your head, or somebody, usually the visiting team’s shortstop, stepped in a hole and twisted his ankle. Or worse, the ball could hit one of those ruts just right, and
POW! you’d look like Tony Kubek in the ’60 Series in Pittsburgh when that ball jumped up and hit him in the throat. And then Mazeroski hit that homer.
Me, I played deep. I had a good arm.
Anyway, next thing I know, Donald, the old curveballer, is standing next to me trying to hand me the ball.
“What’s this for?” I asked. I mean I didn’t know.
“You’re pitching,” he said.
“Sure I am.”
Donald stuck the ball in my glove. “You are. Go ask Coach. I’ve developed a blister. ”
And sure enough, right there on his middle finger, right near the first knuckle, was a blister. The skin had pulled away and a little blood had collected on one edge. The middle of it was a deep pink and that skin seemed to be torn.
“I can’t throw the yacker,” he said, sounding worried, as if his career, or something, might be over.
I wondered as I walked to the mound if he wasn’t supposed to soak his hand in salt water or pickle juice to toughen it, you know, to prevent that sort of thing.
Without the yacker, I thought, the game will be lot quieter.
But I didn’t have time to ponder it anymore, because there I was, at the pitcher’s mound, a batter was at the plate, Ray was yelling at me not to worry, and Coach was saying to just take a few warm-ups.
It felt weird. I had never been up on the mound before, you know, as a pitcher. I mean all us infielders had been around the mound to talk to the pitcher when he messed up, or when the Coach changed pitchers. We all stood around, patted the kid on the ass with our gloves and said, “We’ll get ’em next time,” when what we wanted to say was, “What’s your problem you can’t get these jerks out.”
But then it felt great. I was the pitcher. I was the pitcher! I took the ball out of my glove and rubbed it and kicked at the rubber and looked in at Ray behind the plate. And slowly, with each action, I felt a change taking place. No longer was I the shortstop, all gangly arms and nervous feet before a pitch, rocking back and forth, waiting, waiting, then leaping to one side or another, slashing the glove toward the ball spinning away, then planting my right foot and like a dancer, turning my body as I slung my arm and threw the ball to hear the satisfying smack as the first baseman gloved it as the runner dashed by too late.
I was the pitcher. I stood on the mound and glanced around the field a moment. All the players were watching me. I had never felt so important before in my life.
I threw a couple of pitches, and it seemed okay. I mean, I didn’t hit anybody. I tried to think of how I had seen major league pitchers do it, and for some reason
thought of Whitey Ford, which was a problem, because he was a lefty, and I threw right-handed. But I didn’t have time to think of anyone else. I sort of rocked back, brought my hands together in the glove, raised them over my head and threw the ball. I followed through and landed like I guessed a giraffe might if they had arms and could throw a baseball. Ray shouted, “Yah!” as he tossed back the ball. “Alright, Smitty. Throw to the glove.” Then he slipped the black mask
over his face, crouched behind the plate, grabbed a handful of dirt with his right hand and made his glove a target for me to hit.
I looked over at Donald, still examining his hand.
Developed a blister. What are you some kind of scientist?
“Smithers, come look. I’ve developed a blister.” Right.
Coach just stepped back and yelled, “Play ball.”
That’s easy for you to say, I thought.
The batter stepped in and suddenly the target that Ray was holding up was way too small. I wanted to yell into him to get a bigger glove. All that space around home plate that I had before was gone, filled up by the body of this kid and his bat that he waved over the plate two or three times.
I must have closed my eyes when I threw the ball, because all I heard was Ray shouting, “Look out!”
When I looked up, the batter was sitting in the dirt, trying to hold on to his helmet. He had a wild look in his eyes like he had just seen his future flash before
him. I wanted to say I was sorry. I mean, he was just a little kid. He had his whole life ahead of him. Ray chased the ball down near the backstop. That must have been some pitch. “Hang in there, Smitty,” Ray yelled, grinning. “Just throw to the glove.” “