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(5 B) Chapter Five B

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that afternoon..

The kid was great. It was like having a partner in crime.  Somehow I had found the extension to my ideas.. or maybe it had found me.  A magnificent horse for my cart. I put him in left field to see how he did.. and all of a sudden he owned center, kept a bit of left and took a good part of right as well.

Marty had watched the kid go deep behind him to take a bounce off the wall, trap the runner quickly short of second with a laser throw to the infield.  Later, when the kid got behind him on a hard deep drive to center, Marty just kept running to left field and waved the kid on. 

I watched from the edge of the cage in disbelief.. Dusty’s immediate chuckle echoing in my ears. Our center fielder had just seen the obvious and instinctively acknowledged there was a new wheel horse in the outfield.  Marty was a good fielder, a strong hitter with power, good speed.. even deceptive speed for a kid his size, but he’d just seen a sure double over his head turned into a pretty casual out by the left fielder. 

I had seen that the kid was already moving hard to deep center as the pitch was leaving the pitcher’s hand. Behind the plate Dale had seen the break as well and I guess that was why he was standing there holding his mask silently looking at the new center fielder. Being a pragmatic young man, and weighing the fact that the batter was out.. and there was still a left fielder, a center fielder and a right fielder he bawled for the team to look sharp and play ball. He scuttled behind the plate and only when his mask was in place did his eyes look my way.  I shrugged my shoulders, he punched his glove and signaled for the next pitch.

Dusty muttered a humorous “defense, defense, defense.. Amen”

Like most pitchers, Billy thought all hits should be outs and if re-arranging the outfield with  that new kid Jimmy in the middle improved the odds.. well..  that was more than okay with him. His job was blowing the ball past the batters. Fastball… low and away…

So that’s how it went. The kid showed up and blew my mind. I tried to hide this enormous talent in left field till I figured out what to do with him and he takes over center field and illustrated how to get on base consistantly. About this time I slowly started realizing that he had no showboat in him.. and as a matter of fact was dogging it slightly. Perhaps a better way to describe what I was seeing would be to say he was masking his ability so as not to alarm anyone.

Now I picked up this cue finally being a real smart guy.. and I said to myself after one particular play set off a light bulb in my brain.. what the heck is going on here? I put it down to delusions at first until it sunk in that the kid was subtly manipulating some of the plays to make the other players look good. Dusty was quick to point this out gleefully.. and It got under my skin to the point where I asked him to stay after practice for a little talk if he didn’t mind. He duly appeared as the rest of the players were drifting away with those dark eyes looking straight into me.

“come on out to the wall in center field kid”

“yes sir” said black eyes

“and bring a ball”

“yes sir” said the dark eyes with a subtle grin

We walked on out through the infield and over the outfield grass to the wall then stepped through to the bullpen. I nodded to the pitcher’s mound and headed to a place I was very familiar with behind the bullpen plate.

“Give me a nice easy knuckler.. righty, please.”

I had Dale’s big glove.. and I mean the big one that was hardly used anymore. I was kind of reflecting on the fact that there really weren’t that many knuckleball pitcher’s anymore when the kid let go from that incredibly easy motion he had.. almost catching me by surprise. I was watching his release more than the pitch anyway and was able to knock down the pitch in self defense, but not catch it. I scuttled to the ball and whipped it back out to him, settled behind the plate and called for the same, lefty.  Again I watched the motion and release carefully. He’d tucked the glove under his arm and rubbed the ball clean with his hands, then in one deceptive motion stepped to the rubber, paused for just the legal minimum.. and from that odd squared to the batter stance, broken into his motion and delivery. It looked a bit like he was pulling back on a string as he released the knuckler, yet there was a bit of push in the release.. perfectly identical to his righty throw. Again I was able to knock down the fluttering pitch.

 We walked back through the outfield, the big glove tucked under my arm.

“I’m going to bring you in tomorrow as a short reliever kid. I want you to promise to only throw from the one side. Its your choice. Someone has taught you to hide your talent as much as possible so I don’t want to mess with that.  You’ve got some decisions to make about what to do with all that talent.  I don’t know what you’re doin here but its all up to you what happens from her on..  like I said.. I don’t want to mess up what you know, even if I could.  Are we on the same wavelength kid?”

“yes sir”

“who taught you to play baseball?”

“Grandfather Joey and my dad.”

“uh huh..  you want to play in the big leagues”

“maybe sir.”

“uh huh.. any other plans kid?”

“maybe sir… Grandfather said to go over the mountains and see what the world is about… my dad says the same.”

“uh huh.. tell me kid, you got any other brothers or sisters who can play ball?”

“yes sir.” Black eyes laughed out loud

“you understand why I’m not pitching you right off kid, as a starter?”

“yes sir.”  Quiet eyes.

“See you tomorrow kid… good practice.”

“thank you sir.”

I walked off the grass with him. It was a fine fine feeling just walking with this kid. He seemed to make the grass greener and deeper. Funny thing too.. it always seemed much quieter standing near him.. funny. Dusty had noticed something like that earlier. Said he could see the game clearer sitting beside him on the bench. I noticed that Billy the young fireballer had reserved seating on the other side. They didn’t say much but the same bond that Big Creighton had formed seemed there for Billy as well. Like some good luck charm, Billy always sat now to the left of Jimmy.

“what’s up D’Arcy… ya goin to pitch him?”

“Aw Dusty.. just leave it alone will ya..”

“Ya gotta play him.. he’s a player.. and players play..

“I know.. I know.. I told him I’d squeeze him into short relief..”

“I saw him throwin to you.. he got some kind of monster stuff.. don’t he ? Ya aint goin to keep the cat in the bag forever.. might as well cut it loose.. your problem is you don’t even know where to play him”

“doin my best Dusty.. one small step at a time..”

I pulled the big catcher’s mitt out from under my arm and handed it to Dusty. 

Written by diamondwalker

November 26, 2008 at 12:37 am

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