Diamond Walker’s Blog

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(_22) Chap Twenty Two

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“the next day”  1st game of a twinight double header

In golden light of afternoon he thought “with”… and took another sidestep.. and another.. flexing/feeling/watching/reading.. breathing with.. being..  breath. And at that little telltale upward shrug.. he broke easily right as the pitcher blinked.. and was gone, loping in a smooth seven stride path toward the inside edge of 2nd base.. there was a balancing point between forward and downward and he felt it instantly..

And all slowed down.. there was a whistling sound in the air and the tap of the shortstops legs dancing to the base.. glove raised.. eyeslocked and tracking. Jimmy hear the scuffly sounds of his last two dancing/skipping drop steps to begin his slide and the hiss of earth along his crashland slide.. and lightly reaching out he touched the bag as forward progress ground to a hold.. an arms length south of the base.. safe..!

He’d hated to go for the steal on the first pitch, it seemed a little brash. He’d been put in as a baserunner  for the left fielder who was obviously struggling with sore knees, yet could hit like a demon. Why prolong it Jimmy thought .. this pitcher had so many clues and gave them away so freely. He’d watched him and his herky kerky motion  for the first four innings from the dugout. Grandpa could steal on this young man and he thought of this with a smile as he brushed the dust from this big league uniform after his successful slide into second.

Jimmy came around to score his first major league run before the inning ended and there was a gratifying nod and tip of the cap from the much older left fielder who’s painfully legged out single had put him there. The bench coach told him to take left field and gave him a light pat on the shoulder to send him on his way.

The famed old bench coach Nellie was a friend of Dusty’s from way back and had listened carefully with not a little surprise at the odd advice sent over the phone line. Dusty had “suggested” they give this green kid a green light on the base paths. Tell him when he mustn’t go.. but otherwise he really had something special going on as far as stealing and disrupting a pitcher’s rhythm. A pretty rare and pretty high assessment in Nellie’s eyes as he’d seen a few great ones in his time but then so had Dusty. What the hey.. this was a game right ? As Dusty was very fond of reminding him. He’d given Jimmy the poop before the game and liked the way the kid actually listened and asked  astute questions about one thing or another. Interesting find this kid.. trust Dusty and Darcy, the Vancouver  twins to keep finding or producing real gems

He’d had some excellent moments so far on this excellent day playing the outfield in deep grass near the fence. Fantastic hits had co me to him out there in the strong sunlight.. and he just tried to do the right play with a nice bursting sunlight feeling inside him.. and held the ground well.. he thought.. done OK.

And more he’d been able to lean in over home plate and look over the major league pitches sent his way..  good ball’s .. that need a lickin.. as Grandpa  would say..

But now it was bottom of the ninth, smackin time.. his Dad would say. Thinking of his father’s words, he stepped to the plate with none out, and a runner on second. Yes he’d gotten several good hits.. and now it was time for another. He felt it was good to bat left with this pitcher now, though he’d batted righty in his other at bats. He let his every impression cry out “bunt” and watched to see if they read it that way. The catcher immediately asked for time when Jimmy stepped in lefty and scuttled to the mound for a brief huddle. Jimmy knew they had no “book” on him and his move to switch hit surprised  the catcher. They knew he had speed by now and it was a classic bunt situation, so Jimmy went with that scenario and just helped it along a bit. Rubbing the barrel of his bat down as the catcher returned from the mound and nodding at the third base coach as if he’d been given such a signal. When the pitch came high and inside Jimmy was way ahead of it and showed bunt before lunging away to avoid being hit by what was so obviously a “purpose” pitch..

The next pitch was the one he was hunting for.. He read little snapshots of the seams of the ball in the pitcher’s hand and the grip too. Following the sense of the pitcher’s  arm follow thru.. Easy and relaxed with his wrists while reading the incoming  ball.. But there.. the stiffening.. the look locked on the ball, the snap.. the crack.. and he drilled it over the first baseman’s head into the right field corner.. The catcher’s head twitching upward, the ump right with him.. the pitcher’s head snapping around….

Off the wall double.. standing up.. one run scored, tie game, still none out. Yes, it had been a good day for Jimmy Walker and he grinned there on second base. The next batter was out on a high infield pop to shortstop leaving no play for Jimmy. With an easy taking of third base off a deep infield ground out to first base and with two away now Jimmy decided he could steal home.. and end this afternoon game.. before too many pitchers had to work in this first game.

And so he did, somehow stretching and combining his lead off third into a suicide dash to home a split second before the pitcher went into that convoluted  and time consuming  wind up. Jimmy knew from his observation in the early innings that this pitcher’s motion included a brief pause with his glove held high essentially blocking his view toward third base and had stretched his lead  just before that moment.. and that his breaking steps to home would be masked for almost a full second. His slide was a work of art  to the infield side of home plate, leaving only his hand and fingers for a possible tag by a disbelieving catcher, watched closely by the batter who had trouble comprehending that there was someone sliding in front of him.

The first game ended on that play.. and after a shocked silence in the dugout and a boisterous rush by most of them to home plate.. the buzz continued in the dugout and the dressing room as they changed in preparation for the second game of the doubleheader.

It was more of the same in the night game, though they started Jimmy in left field where he’d finished the first game.. and kept the regular left fielder in reserve, where he sat in the dugout  with ice on both knees. Jimmy consistently made the pitcher throw a lot of pitches, fouling off balls that he didn’t like but were near the mysterious strike zone this ump was calling. When the pitcher made little mistakes with location, Jimmy made him pay with thrifty singles or getting on with a walk. Once on base he challenged the bases, the catcher .. and mostly bedeviled the pitcher, who being a righty had to look sharply over his shoulder to keep Jimmy honest with his leadoffs and pitch from the stretch.

The catcher ended up looking bad, but it was the pitcher that Jimmy was stealing on. His jersey was stained deeply from the red dirt around first base from al the pickoff attempts.. but they just couldn’t quite keep a leash on him and he continued to beat the throw with a perfectly anticipated dive to the outfield side of the base. Well Jimmy didn’t mind getting dirty if it was getting the pitcher way out of his rhythm.

The exhausted and frazzled pitcher was gone by the fourth inning as Jimmyhad been on base twice and was due to lead off in the bottom of the fifth.  The other manager had seen enough and brought in a lefhander with a wicked slider from  a sidearm delivery, but Jimmy hadn’t stepped into the box yet.. so after the pitcher took the mound he batted righty and laid a perfect bunt up the line to first and chased it all the way for his third base hit of the day. The rest of the game unfolded easily.. his new team mates showed a lot of hustle and seemed to hitch a ride on Jimmy’s aggressive baserunning.  They got deep into the other teams bullpen by the bottom of the seventh and with a five run lead they ground out the rest of the game with strong pitching and good defense.

And after the game.. with cleats clicking  and flashbulbs going off.. A smartly attired air force officer.. approached him.. with his hand out and a slip of paper.. 

“Excuse me sir.. I’ve been asked to deliver this.. hand to hand.. your immediate attention.. sir..”

 Jimmy read the notice quickly.. He looked at the row of campaign ribbons, crossed rifles and parachute rampant

Did you have further orders concerning me.. sir?”

“Yes sir.. assuming your decision to head west was a fact .. my mission is to expedite your transition to  the most immediate transportation that can facilitate this.. I have a helicopter enroute to  the parking lot.. that is 5 minutes from a US Air Force  jet that is on “loan” to maximize our potentials..”

“I need four quick goodbyes.. 60 seconds sir..”

Jimmy had quick words with several…and leaving not a few mouths hanging open.. ducked into the passage way out of the diamond to the parking lot with a military escort.. 

* decide if you should have the note contents.. from Katherine via anoneemoose and he re-reads it later *  

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Written by diamondwalker

November 26, 2008 at 6:01 pm

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