The Man Behind The Dish

I heard the crowd loudly roaring on their feet. The noise was bothering me.  I was shaking on the inside, but on the outside my body was as still as a tree.  I hated playing away from home. I tried not to tell my self what the game meant. Game 7 of the World Series, we we’re up by one run, with two outs, and the bases loaded. Skipper put that rookie Hernandez on the hill, to try and finish it. I put down one finger telling the kid to throw a fastball.


Strike one.


Next pitch, I put down four fingers telling him to throw the change. I really wanted to fool the hitter here. Pitch was right on the inside corner. I remember the loud yell from the ump.


“Strrrrike Twooo!”


I looked over at the batter. He was kind of shot and pretty skinny. I knew he was one of his team’s fastest players. He could hit too according the scouting report all though he was in a slump during the series. I looked over at their base runners, then back at the pitcher.


The ballpark was silent. I put down two fingers signaling for him to throw his breaking ball. He wound up, with the season on the line. Nervous fans were on their feet, one strike away. The atmosphere was electric. The pitch was on its way. It was coming in at about 74 mph, yet it felt like it was coming towards me slower.


The ball curved sharply downward into the dirt. The ump called it low and outside. I had to leave the crouch to block the ball. I looked the base runner back to third.


One ball, and two strikes was the count on the batter. I threw down one finger for the fastball once again. I just wanted the kid to throw a strike so maybe we could get a groundball or something.


“Come on kid.” I kept thinking.


The pitch came in. It was a ball way inside. The batter did an overly dramatic jump out of the box, to show the ump how inside it was.


Two balls, two strikes on the hitter. Opposing fans started getting a little bit more rowdy.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted him to throw. I ended up putting down two fingers yet again, signaling another breaking ball. My heart was pumping a mile a minute. The pitch crossed the plate. The hitter checked his swing.


It was a full count and I couldn’t believe the ump called that just outside.


I ask the ump for time. I could sense the nervousness in the kid. I ran out to the mound, our Skipper right behind me.

Skipper was asking us “What do you feel comfortable throwing him right now?”

The kid told him he thought his fastball or changeup could work. It was also a shock to hear him talk because he had such a thick Dominican accent. Skipper looked over at me for my point of view. I told him that I liked the changeup in this situation. The hitter had to be expecting the heat with a full count, so why not give him the slow stuff to fool him. The ump ran out behind us. He told us to finish up our meeting.


Everyone went back to their positions. I threw down my four fingers, which told him to throw the changeup. He went into the stretch. The runners took off.


The pitch was a hard hit grounder, towards the shortstop. The runner sprinted out of the batter’s box there was almost no chance to get him at first. I knew the throw was coming towards me. I touched the plate with my foot, knowing that there was a force at any base.


I heard people on both sides yelling, “Home, home, throw it home.”  


It all came down to this. The runner was barreling towards me. I was so scared yet so focused on what would be the outcome of the play. He stuck his head down toward my chest. The ball was almost in my glove. As the ball hit my glove, I felt as if a freight train had just hit me. I fell back, as the runner fell forward. The wind was beyond knocked out of me. I heard the ump yell something, but the call just blurred out. And then the rest just blacked out. I don’t know how many hours have passed by since all this. I’m really anxious. Can you please tell me what happened?


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