Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Big League - Part 6 (conclusion)

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I have finally wrapped up this story. (Scroll down for parts 1-5)

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this and hope I"ve brought some smiles to your faces along the way.

Part 6

“See, I told you not to give up too early.” Eric’s mom assured.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to razz his new friend, Eric turned around and said to the man, “Do you smell that?”

“What’s that short-fry?” was his response.

“That is the smell of sausages cooking!”

Chuckling again, the guy replied, “Don’t count your chickens before their hatched.”

“Let’s not get too carried away young man,” Gail told her son.

The guy leaned forward and told her, “Don’t worry mom, he’s alright. We’re just having some fun.” Extending his hand to her he said, “By the way, my name’s Wes.” Then he directed the last part of his comment to Eric, “Besides, a lot can happen in two innings.”

The top and bottom halves of the eighth inning came and went without any more runners crossing the plate and the Rockies were now down to their final three outs.

A lead off walk and a stolen base had the home crowd a little uneasy. The next batter ripped a line drive past the first baseman for a single and the runner on second advanced to third. The Giants were faced with runners on first and third with nobody out. Another base hit would tie the game.

After running the count to three and o, the pitching coach decided it was time to visit the mound and see if he could calm his closer down a little. It seemed to work because the next pitch hit the outside corner for a strike. The pitch after that, was a little higher up and the batter caught just enough of it to foul it off into the screen behind home plate. The following pitch, a high arching curveball was fouled away again, but this time it was heading straight at Eric and his parents. The young boy had lost interest in wearing his glove some time ago, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The ball was coming in too fast for him to react in time and besides, he wouldn’t have been tall enough to reach it even if he had been ready for it.

It wasn’t out of reach for Wes tough. Much to his own surprise, the man dressed in a Rockies jersey and cap ended up with the souvenir in his hands.

After poking her head up from behind the seat in front of her, Gail checked to make sure her son and husband were ok, and then looked back to see Wes holding the ball high over his head for everyone to see.

“How did you catch that?” Eric asked in amazement.

“I don’t know,” he said, “I just reached up and there it was. Here, you want to take a look at it?”

Stretching out his hand, Eric eagerly said, “Yeah!”

After giving it a thorough examination and showing his mom and dad the scuffmark where the bat had made contact with it, he handed the ball back to his buddy and said, “Thanks.”

He couldn’t believe it; he had got to hold a baseball that was hit by a real big league player. He quickly put his glove back on just incase another one was hit in his direction.

Another ball was hit all right, but not in the direction Eric or any of the other Giants fans had hoped for. This one was heading about three hundred and seventy feet, just over the right field fence, a couple of rows deep. It was a three run shot that put Rockies up by two and the Giants still didn’t have anybody out.

This brought the Giants manager out of the dugout. He was tapping his right arm as he made his way to the mound, which signaled it was time for a pitching change. There were many in the stands who would argue this change should have happened a couple of batters earlier, but what was done, was done.

The decision to replace his struggling pitcher proved to be a good one. The first two batters who stepped into the box went down on six straight strikes and the third hit a line drive to the shortstop to end the inning.

Now it was the Giants who were down to their final three outs.

Roger looked at his son and said, “Well, what do you think? Do they have three more runs in them?”

“I hope so dad.”

Gail enthusiastically said, “Sure they do!”

She continued, “You know what we need to do don’t you?”

“What mom?”

Taking off her cap and turning it inside out she said, “We need to put on our rally hats!”

Following his mom’s lead, Eric grabbed his hat and contorted it into its new design.

“Look mom,” he said, “If they get one more run for each of our hats, adding his father’s to the total, they’ll have enough to win!”

Gail pointed out to the crowd and told her son, “Look at all the other people with their rally hats, think how many runs that’d be.”

Eric scanned the stadium and exclaimed, “They’re gonna slaughter ‘em!”

Wanting to tease, but not crush his young friend, Wes leaned forward and said, “Don’t forget about the chickens hatching.”

“I won’t,” he replied.

The bottom part of the line up was due to hit, so the Giants opted for some offensive changes in hopes of generating some quick action in the batters box. Their first, ninth inning hope, swaggered up to the plate and with a slight adjustment to his cup, he was ready.

The first pitch came in high and tight causing him to stumble backwards so as to avoid being hit. Boos rained down onto the field from the fans as the batter righted his self. He dug in with his right foot like a bull getting ready to charge. The next pitch zipped in at his knees and as he made contact with it, everyone jumped to their feet. It was a long fly ball. The center fielder raced towards the fence as fast as his legs would carry him. Reaching the warning track, he stopped and the crowd watched in agony as the ball dropped into his glove.

A simultaneous sigh echoed across the park while the fans took their seats again.

“Ten more feet,” cried Roger, “Ten more stinking feet and that one would have been out of here!”

Taking the roll of the father, Eric patted his dad on the back and said in a consoling voice, “That's all right dad.”

Reaching around to give his son a squeeze, Roger replied, “Thanks buddy.”

You could see the anxiety in Gail’s body language as she clenched her fists. She wanted the Giants to win, but more than that, she didn’t want to see her son heartbroken if they lost.

“Strike!” was the call from the home plate ump.

”Come on . . . come on” Gail heard herself mumble.

The fans started stomping their feet and clapping their hands in unison as an encouragement to the hitter.

“Stomp, Stomp - CLAP! . . . Stomp, Stomp - CLAP!” thundered from the stands.

“Strike!” again was the call.

Eric heard someone a few rows away yell, “Where’s your cup and a cane ump? That was a ball!”

The crowd had paused for a moment, and then began its rhythmic cheer all over again.

Moments later they screamed as the batter connected with the ball and sent it into the gap in left. The left fielder charged after the ball as the runner rounded first. He grabbed the ball with his bare hand and planted his feet for the throw to second. The runner never looked up, instead he laid out and slid into second hoping his legs were faster that the outfielder’s arm.

The second base umpire stretched out his arms to either side and hollered, “SAFE!”

The place exploded into a frenzy as they watched their chances come back alive. The big screen on the center field scoreboard added to the excitement as well, showing the replay several times.

Next up was a left-handed batter who laid down a bunt on the very first pitch catching all of the Rockies off guard. It was beautifully placed, rolling just inside the first base line. By the time the pitcher reacted and picked it up, the runner had advanced to third and his throw to first was too late.

The Giants now had the tying run on first and the winning run at the plate.

This brought the Rockies coach to the mound along with the infielders. After a brief meeting on strategy, the umpire walked out and broke up their pow-wow getting the game back under way.

Two pitches later, the new batter hit a roller to the third baseman. The runners had traveled too far to their respective bases for a play on either of them so he fired a shot over to first for the easy out.

Another run had scored, but the Giants were down to their final out now.

The runner on second took a few steps off the bag, but kept a watchful eye out for a pick-off play. The last thing he wanted was to be caught napping and end up being the final out.

Eric, like many of the other fans, was standing, too nervous to sit. The whole ball game came down to this last at bat.

”What a position to be in,” Gail thought, ”if the guy at the plate gets a hit he’s a hero, if he makes an out he’s the goat.”

After taking the first pitch for a called strike he swung at the next one to cross the plate. This one landed in the stands a little ways past first base. The count was now o and two bringing the fate of the game to one last strike. The next pitch was a low slider that went in for a ball.

“Come on baby, you can do this.” Eric whispered.

The fans watched in disbelief as a 94mph fastball shot by the batter, too fast for his swing. Just like that, the ball game was over. The Giants had lost by a score of seven to six.

“Oh maaaaan!” was Eric’s reaction.

Gail immediately went into ‘protective momma bear mode’, saying things like, “It’s ok sugar,” and “It’ll be all right.”

Eric looked up at her and said something that just about floored her. He said, “It kinda stinks that they didn’t win, but that’s ok, it was fun anyway.”

She stood there speechless. “Did this little boy of only eight years really say that?”

Then, without any prompting, Eric turned around and stuck out his hand to the gentleman he’d had so much fun sparring with and said, “Congratulations Mr. Wes, good game.”

You could have knocked either of his parents over with a feather.

Wes too, was taken aback by the words and composure this little boy was showing and as he was shaking the lads hand an idea came to him.

“Young man,” he said, “the house I live in is kind of small, and I don’t think I have enough room anywhere for this ball I got today.” Pulling the ball he’d caught earlier from his coat pocket, he continued, “Do you suppose you have a spot at your place where you could keep it?”

Eric starred at the ball for a moment then looked at his parents who both nodded in approval. “Are you serious?” he asked.

“You’d be doing me a tremendous favor.” He said as he gave a wink at Roger and Gail.

“You bet I do!”

“What do you tell him?” Gail asked her son.

“Oh yeah, thank you, thank you very much!” Eric said.

“Your welcome Eric, just promise me you’ll take good care of it for me.”

Whatever sting there might have been from seeing his team lose the game had just evaporated in an instant.

This truly was a day Eric would remember forever.

The End


Dana said...

Thank you Jeff! This was a great, feel-good story! It also brought back memories of the first minor league game my son and I attended.

When a foul ball was hit out of play, my son snatched it up and threw it back on the field ... just as the pitcher was delivering a pitch. It seems he thought he was doing them a favor by giving them their ball back!

Anonymous said...

Awwwwwww, made me cry again. What a great story, Jeff, and I don't even care if the Giants lost that one because you took me right back to that long ago day at Candelstick, made me smell the peanuts and hot dogs, hear the "Cracker Jack" song, and the ending was outstanding. Well written! And to think, just a short while ago, you said you didn't know how to write dialog; think you learned pretty quickly. When you take the boys to that first big league game up in Seattle, can I go? . . . can I? can I please . . . pretty please with sugar on it? Good job.

Psycho Mom

Roger said...

(((Brovo))) (((applause)))) Great story Jeff!!

Annie said...

Ah, shucks, that's a perfect story. Yes, there really is a Santa Claus.

Travis said...

Terrific ending. Well done my friend.

Jeni said...

Jeff, that was a really great story - had me on the edge of my chair wondering if the Giants would pull the game out, how the little guy would handle it if they lost. Just a perfect story!

Bond said...

Fantastic finish to an incredible story Jeff... Thanks for sharing...more people should read this...

Odat said...

Oh good, it had a happy ending....:-)
That was one good story! Thank you!

Matt-Man said...

Great Job Jeff...I love when a stranger hands me their ball. Seriously, very well done. Cheers!!

Mel said...

Aww......what a great story with a 'makes ya smile' ending.

Done yourself proud, sir!

And it's official......I now can't wait for the openin' game.

buffalodickdy said...

Good story! I once gave some kid a baseball like that, during a class A game- he was geeked!

nitebyrd said...

Great story! I so see my son at that age going to a game with that excitement. Thank you!

Jeff B said...

Dana- That's funny, maybe not as much at the time, but what a great laugh to share now.

Mom- Consider yorself officially invited. Maybe we can go when they play the A's. That would be the next best thing.

Roger- Thanks buddy. I'm looking forward to the first pitch of this year.

Annie- There is, but this time his 'uniform' wasn't red and white.

Travis- I appreciate that. When someone of your tallents as a writer shares kind words, it really is an encouragement.

Jeni- I origonally was going to have them win, but it just didn't play out that way the more I wrote.

Bond- I know you're a fan of the game, so I'm glad to have kept you into the story.

Odat- I hoped to show that even though things don't always work out the way we want, there can still be a 'silver lining' to them.

Matt- Bada bing! But when they hand both of them to you, then grasshopper, you are ready.

Mel- I couldn't let the kid go home in a pool of tears. Opening day is just around the corner now.

Buffalo- I'll bet you made his whole week. A ball from a game has so much magic to it compared to one off the store shelf.

Nitebyrd- The wonderment of a young boy (or girl too) at their first game. The memories last a lifetime.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Eric became a man today. How excellent Jeff. Awesome read and I love the ending. You do this very well. Okay, I was hoping the Giants could pull it off too, but the ending wouldn't have been so neat if they had. Have a great day. :)

Leighann said...

You really did a great job with this! You made me a baseball fan!

buffalodickdy said...

Somewhere in this house, I have a personally signed bat from Al Kaline- one of the most revered Tigers ever...

CrystalChick said...

Terrific story. Nice ending.
Just went to my first Flyers game last night. They lost too, but it was neat to be in the crowd and see all the action.

Anna said...

Jeff I think I just watched baseball game with 5 intermissions, lol. Thanks for writing this great story for us. Unforgetable, Eric did matured over the 6 sessions. Anna :)

Ron said...


I was on the edge of my computer seat, slowly scrolling the story down with my mouse...just anticipating your every word!!!

What a WONDEFUL story, Jeff.

It was funny, exceiting, and touching. I feel sad that it's over....which means that you better be coming up with something else!!!

Maybe a murder mystery???

Thanks for sharing your wonderful gift, bud...it's SOOOO enjoyed!

Jules~ said...

Awe that was simply wonderful! I got misty eyed and everything. Thanks Jeff.

david mcmahon said...

Great stuff, Jeff,

Have you ever thought about publishing this as a novella?

San said...

Jeff, your "play-by-play" telling of the game is so exciting. Just like being there!

And the twist at the conclusion is oh-so-perfect. A feel-good story for sure.

Jeff B said...

Sandee- For some reason, ending this way just seem right. Nice, but not sugary sweet.

Leighann- We have a convert everybody! Glad you enjoyed it.

Buffalo- That's a nice treasure. Might make a good post?

Crystalchick- Different venue, same kind of excitement I'll bet. Going to a game always beats watching it on the tube doesn't it?

Anna- Sometimes children do the most 'grown-up' things when we least expect it.

Ron- Thank you just doesn't seem like enough for your kind words. I'm sure another story will unveil its self to me. Although I never plan on what I'm going to write next, a murder mystery would be kind of fun to try.

Jules- Mist in the eyes is always good to clean out the tear ducts. Thanks for reading along.

David- I created this story over the past week, so I really haven't considered sending it off to any publishers at this point.

I've never tried to have something published which leaves me in that intimidated feeling spot.

I do appreciate your encouragement.

San- As I eluded to in another comment, I didn't want the ending to be too cookie cutter.

Thanks for joining in.

Lee said...

Great story! Felt like I was right there cheering with Eric!


CrazyCath said...

Oh wow, as an English girl who doesn't understand baseball, initially I was skimming bits but I had to go back. That story is so well written and whether I understand the game or not, I understand the emotion, the need to protect your child's feelings, the pride....
That is a lovely story. And you have a wonderful son. You must be very proud. Thanks for sharing.
I got directed here via David's blog btw.

LZ Blogger said...

"Hi"... I just came over here from david mcmahon's blog and just wanted to check in! Nice post! ~ jb///

Sandi McBride said...

I remember when we first took our boys to a major league game (the Cubs vs the Braves) and how my older son was so excited that Mark Grace had signed his rookie card...he still has it of course. Such a wonderful story of family! Oh, and by the way, David sent me...congratulations on being chosen.

Jeff B said...

Lee- Thanks for coming by.

Crazycath- The story is mostly ficticious, but some of the elements are from memories of my childhood. Glad you enjoyed it.

LZ- Thanks for leaving a note. Its always nice to have visitors.

Sandi- That's so neat that your son still has the card. Thank you for taking the time to read the story.

Daryl E said...

True or not its a great story!

David sent me

Desert Songbird said...

Great job, Jeff! Truly! Very believable and authentic.

I'm not a baseball fan, but I read every part. Makes me wanna take in a spring training game!

Jeff B said...

Daryl E- Thanks for taking the time to read it and leave a comment.

I would think there are some teams around you. I'm not sure what city you're in, but if you get a chance to see some spring training game go for it. Lots of fun at a much more reasonable rate than regular season.