“One Pitch” by Jake Keller  

It’s a hot dry Friday evening, and Jim was a baking potato in the heat. Sweat was dripping down his forehead, and his eyes were stinging, because the salt getting in his eyes. His longish blond hair wasn’t helping the situation. His team was at practice, and they were currently doing groundball drills. Crack! A ground ball was hit at the speed of light directly at him, and he barely gets his glove down to field it, before he under throws it to first. Luckily, his best friend Andrew gets an amazing snag, saving him from certain mortification. Shortstop is not his favorite position, but nobody else on the team can afford to play it. Jim is atrocious at outfield, and all of the other infield positions are taken, so he played shortstop.

“HALT!” his coach calls, “we’re ending practice early today.” Relieved, Jim slowly walks back to the dugout to pack up his bag.

“Jim, come over here,” Coach Williams said. Jim knew what was coming. “Jim, practice more,” “Jim, I expect more from you,” or the worst of all, “You and I both know you’re letting the team down.”

When Jim reached Coach, Coach didn’t yell at him, or say any of those things.

He said, “You decide how much you need to improve.” And he walks away. Jim knew more than ever he needs to step it up. His team is the bottom seed in the playoffs, and they will face the top ranked opponent in a couple of days. He was the only person on the team who doesn’t get a hit every game.

As he was trudging back to the parking lot where his mom was parked, Andrew approached him.

“You’re getting better,” Andrew claimed encouragingly. Jim knew that that statement is as stretchy as silly putty, but he appreciated the encouragement.

“I still need to improve,” Jim replied wistfully. He didn’t know how though. He has tried practicing more at training camps, and anything in between, but he wasn’t that great at baseball, and he was disappointed because of it.

“Come on man, it only takes one pitch, one hit, and you’re a hero,” Andrew insisted.

“It isn’t that simple though!” Jim shouts as he storms off.

The game was to start soon, and Jim was a nervous wreck, and to add onto that he still hasn’t apologized to Andrew. Coach Williams gets everyone together to make his big pre-game speech. When he started talking, he got the group in a trancelike state, as if he was hypnotizing them.

“I know we have come a long way from where we were last year, and I’m proud of you for that. But I still believe we can do more. We didn’t come this far to give up, when people think we have no shot. So get out there, and prove them wrong!”

The game started, and it went satisfactorily for the first 5 innings. The Tigers (Jim’s team) were up 1-0 on The Giants, but it all went wrong in the 6th. The Giants score 3, and score another 1 in the 8th. Jim enters the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and 1 out. Jim is 0-3 today, but all it takes is one home run to win the game for his team. He walks up to the plate and takes a pitch. Strike one! He decided to swing at the next pitch, and he missed. Strike two! For strike 3 Jim sees a bad pitch and takes it, but the ump makes a horrendous call, and calls him out.

 

Andrew went up after him and hit a walk-off grand slam, which won the game. Jim got rushed out his sorrowful state, and he ran up with the rest of his team to swarm Andrew.

“We did it!” yelled Andrew, ignoring the fact that he carried his team to victory. After everybody was done celebrating, it felt like they won the world series. They shook hands with the shell shocked opposing team and started gathering around their coach for his post-game speech.

Coach Williams started to speak “I’m extremely proud of this team, for what we have achieved this year, exceeded everyone’s expectations. But we aren’t done yet, we still have to make it to the championship and win!”

Jim still was disappointed with his performance, but he kept repeating Andrew’s words “All it takes is one pitch.” He knew he would probably get another shot to become the hero he had always dreamed of being.

After the chaos was over Jim walked over to Andrew and apologized, for yelling at him after practice, and Andrew replied, “Oh, it’s all cool man. I know how stressful this is.” Glad that he got that weight off his chest Jim at least got something from that game.

 

*****

 

It’s was championship day, and The Tigers were on a roll. They won the two other games needed to make it to the championship in blowout fashion. Jim had only gotten a couple of singles in these games, but he still hoped for that one pitch.

When the first inning come around Jim had the chance to give his team an early lead, but he hit a pop up.

“You still have more pitches,” he told himself. Having equally unproductive 3rd and 6th innings Jim was facing a do or die situation. There were 2 outs in the 9th inning The Tigers were down by 1 and a runner was on first.

“This is my chance, my pitch,” Jim repeated to himself, as he walked up to the plate. On the first pitch he swung, but he barely made contact, as the ball rolled parallel to the 3rd base foul line before stopping, which gave Jim a single. Jim thought to himself, “I wasn’t the hero, but I gave Andrew a chance to be one.”

When Andrew stepped up to the plate, everybody went silent. On the first pitch he hit a line drive into the gap, which scored Jim and won the game. Everyone rushed Andrew for the second time this playoff run, celebrating their first championship win. Jim knew he wasn’t the hero he wanted to be that game, but he does know that he played a key support role in that win.

 

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