Competitive by Nature (Part 1 of 3)

The grass had been mowed just yesterday. The smell was fresh and exciting. The field at Brown’s Corner Recreation Area was alive with the warm-ups of 30 twelve year-olds getting ready for the game. The Falcons were hot this year. They had the best pitcher in the league. A left-hander named McDery who threw a natural inside curve. The Dodgers were on a three-game winning streak Just last Saturday, they had creamed the Giants 8-1. Their big first baseman was a power-hitter they called Train. His real name was Terry, but his nickname stuck after the first game of the season when he shattered the catcher’s collarbone while stealing home. He’d run him over like a steam engine and didn’t even look back when the stretcher came. Train had stretched many easy singles into doubles and triples through the way he chugged around the bases. He put his head down and charged full-throttle until he got there. Not many kids stayed in the way once he got going.

The game started with the national anthem played over the P.A. system as usual. With the static subsiding in the closing chords, the umpire shouted, “PLAY BALL” and the Dodgers took to the field with a yell. The first three innings of the seven-inning event went by quickly with little excitement and no score. Only four hits broke the boredom. The Falcons got a single and a double, while the Dodgers replied with two singles of their own. Train struck out once. McDery was as good as ever. His curve seemed to hang in the air, teasing the batter, before it broke across the plate.

In the fourth inning, with two outs, the Dodgers’ shortstop smacked a double to left and the center fielder spiked a single up the middle. Runners were on first and third with the Train coming up to bat. At 1-1, Train stepped out of the batter’s box to dig some grit out of his eye. When he stepped back in, he whaled a shot all the way to the chain-link fence in left-center field. He made it to third where he crashed into the defender of that base. The umpire called him safe and Train stood on the bag as he brushed the dirt off his pants. The third baseman just rubbed his left shoulder and thought ugly thoughts his mother would not approve of if she knew about them. It didn’t change the fact that the Dodgers now led 2-0. Donald “The-Paste-Eater” Wilson came up next and struck out to retire the side.

At the top of the fifth, the Falcons fought back. They scored one run off a throwing error from right field before being put back out in the field again. The bottom of the fifth and the entire sixth inning were uneventful in terms of score. The only noteworthy event was when Jimmy Wireman caught a pop-fly with his glove when it bounced off his mouth. Not much blood, but his dentist would see him later that week.

At the top of the seventh, the score was still 2-1 Dodgers. Two quick outs for the Falcons. A strike-out swinging at bad pitches and a line drive to the second baseman who caught it out of self-defense. Last chance for the Falcons. David “Coke-bottle-glasses” Johnson got hit by a pitch and wound up on first base. Lenny walked and Steve got a single to load the bases. Keith came up and took a swing at the first pitch and sent it to the right field fence, ending up with a long single and driving in two runs. Justin walked. Adam struck out and put an end to the rally. The Falcons took the field to defend their lead of 3-2 over the Dodgers.

In the stands, moms cheered and prayed for their little ones while dads muttered threats of extra practice and chores if their sons lost. Up to bat first came Gerald, the center fielder. He let two pitches go past as the Train waited in the on-deck circle shooing flies from his face between swings. On the third pitch, Gerald cracked a strong drive out to left field and made it to second base with ease. Train made his way to the plate wearing a smug grin. He was ready to hit one out. Just let McDery try a hanging curve on him! A fly landed on his right cheek and Train smacked it instinctively with his dirty palm.

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