I love playing and watching baseball games. I was on my high school’s baseball team for four years, didn’t see much action, so it was more fun playing Pony League in the summer (until I became too old) and sandlot ball with my friends. We also played softball for a local church team. Vree and Dave played softball for their local church team too and they invited me to watch a game.
I arrived late—chores, of course—and seated myself at the top row of the bleachers behind home plate and a few feet to the left of Amy Everly, Dave’s younger sister. She had curly brown hair that framed an oval, soft face. During the game, she clapped her small, delicate hands while she cheered her brother and cousin on.
“Who’s winning?” I asked her.
She stopped cheering and addressed me with a cool look. “Bottom of the seventh,” she said. “Nazarenes are up five to four.” She then told me that Johnny Blake, the Nazarenes’ pitcher, had been throwing change-ups and heated fisticuff strikes all game long and was still striking out batters
I thanked her and cheered for Vree and Dave’s team, New Gospel, to win.
Dave began the final half-inning by fouling the first pitch from Johnny Blake. I admired Blake’s determination to win, but it was Dave’s determination I admired more.
He fouled the second pitch straight back, which cleared the backstop and practically landed in my lap. I gave the ball to Amy.
“For you, mademoiselle,” I said when I handed it to her.
She screwed up her nose, threw the ball back onto the field, and slid away from me, putting several feet of space between us.
The New Gospel players inside the dugout at the first base side of the field, all called for Dave to hit the ball. For a skinny guy, he had broad shoulders and muscular forearms, which I figured gave him an excellent chance to clout a four-bagger and tie the game.
Blake’s next pitch came in low at Dave’s knees and dropped before it reached home plate. Dave swung a windmill cut at the ball and missed it by the proverbial baseball mile. The ball scooted under the catcher and umpire and zipped straight to the backstop. Dave, aware of his mistake, never hesitated. He raced to first base as the catcher caught up with the ball and threw to first base. The speedy Dave Everly beat the throw.
Vree headed to the batter’s box.
“Just make contact,” Amy yelled.
“She’s no hitter,” the third baseman yelled out to his teammates. Then to Blake, “Strike her out.”
Vree poised herself well at the plate and hit the first pitch—wham, bam—right into the third baseman’s glove. In a matter of a second, she had lined out. The next batter grounded into a double play: 6 to 4 to 3. The teams met at home plate in a game ending ritual of touching hands and saying “Good game” to one another.
Amy stood up and prepared to leave. I introduced myself. She scowled at my outstretched hand, did a quick about-face, and sprinted down the bleachers.
“Pleasure to meet you, anyway,” I said to her fleeing backside. Then, moments later, I, too, headed down the bleachers.
More to come.