There were two JV runners on first and second with one out in the top of the sixth. Since Johnson is the last man in the rotation he got the nod for the JV-V game, giving him a full five days rest.
The score had inflated from the first inning, but in our favor. The two runners on make it the first time they’ve reached base safely all game. Johnson was barely trying, and you could see miles were being taken off his fastball as a sign of disrespect. It said “c’mon you JV pricks fucking hit me already.”
Todd in right field mowed down most of the runners with ease. It looked as though none of the JV players had the capacity to run. This is not good for the school. Coach Tilden knew we would slaughter them but the amount of fight in the JV squad is that of a little league team. These are the boys who will represent the school once the varsity squad graduates.
Johnson threw what appeared to be a breaking pitch and the batter swung right through it for strike two. Thirty seconds later another pitch came over the plate but was hit so weakly a double play was turned faster than one could blink.
The sun was relatively high covering all of home plate while the rest of the field rested under shade. This spelled good news for the pitcher because the batter never saw the ball coming. We’ve played in similar conditions before so this cannot be a factor in their poor performance. Perhaps they knew they stood no chance so why bother putting up a fight?
That wasn’t how I saw it. During my first game I wanted to show I deserved to be on the team, and Coach Tilden had been so impressed I got promoted. None of these kids see this as a chance to shine, to impress Tilden. How unfortunate for them to be thinking small ball. No pun intended.
As per tradition, each starter was required to get in at least one inning. This made Johnson’s last. Looking to my right, Novak could be seen warming up. Once he took the mound it was my turn and I couldn’t wait.
Dad and I have been working on adding a curveball to my arsenal to compliment my fastball and changeup. I also had a slider but wasn’t confident enough in it. At least last year I wasn’t. After practicing on its mechanics I feel 75% sure I could use it to induce double plays. Perfect for jams.
Our half of the inning ended without incident. As expected Novak took the mound with a round of applause. Once his warm-up pitches were complete on the rubber the next batter stepped in.
Novak looked for his sign, got it. The windup. A fastball outside for ball one. Next pitch- fastball for strike one, down the middle. Novak got the sign he liked, wound up, pitched. Outside for ball two. Novak shook his head with a bit of a scowl. He checked the signs, shook two off, got the one he wanted. He only has three pitches in his arsenal. His changeup is his best. That’s what came next- a base hit.
Novak watched the JV runner stand on first base in a bit of awe. The scowl was still there.
The next batter stepped in. Novak got his sign. The ball connected with his bat sending it whizzing over Novak’s head and between shortstop and second base for a base hit.
“That’s alright Novak you’ll get this fucker.”
“C’mon bro don’t let these JV pricks score.”
The next batter stepped in. Novak shook off all three of his signs. He stepped off the rubber and adjusted his genitals, then leered in for his sign. He got it, winding up, delivering a low and inside fastball that the batter swung and connected on. The ball sailed over everyone’s heads and over the fence. Just like that the JV squad was on the board, the crowd began to hush, and the JV squad cheered in their dugout box.
Novak just stood on the mound looking about, perplexity written all over his face.
“Davenport. Get your ass up and start your warm-up tosses.” Coach Tilden barked. Without a word I removed my light jacket and trotted over to the makeshift bullpen and began to loosen up, lobbing fastballs at the catcher.
Through the corner of my eye I watched Novak give up another base hit, then finally get the first out, which was followed by another base hit. With two on and one out Novak pitched from the stretch. Not his strongest suit. On a two-one count Novak hit the batter, loading the bases.
Coach Tilden trotted to the mound, took the ball from Novak with a slap on his rear end, then signaled me in by tapping on his left arm. Novak walked back to the dugout beet red and fuming, throwing his glove into the dugout while ignoring his teammates attempts at delivering encouragement.
I took the ball from Tilden and began warming up- all I needed was four pitches. My arm felt good, I felt good.
“Wooooooo strike that batter out bubbie!” The excited voice of Charity carried through the growing cheers of women calling me “star.” I looked in her direction. She was madly waving her arms around with a smile on her face. I waved back and she clutched the gentleman next to her’s arm. The man was her father. He looked down at his daughter and beamed. I’m not sure if it was because he was with her or because she’s happy.
The catcher flashed the first sign- I took it. I wound up and delivered a fastball that whizzed passed the batter before he had a chance to swing for strike one. The next pitch- another fastball- was swung at but missed for strike two. I shook off the next sign. The catcher skipped to the slider rather than the changeup. I wanted a double play, not to strike him out. I still had an entire inning of my own to pitch. The slider took a sharp dive inside the batters strike zone, buckling his knees. The catcher framed the pitch perfectly for a called strike three.
The crowd erupted in cheers and the batter walked away bewildered. I didn’t want to strike him out. It made it look like I was showing up Novak. The last thing I wanted was to cause more friction.
The next batter stepped in and swung at my first pitch- a pop out to center. Inning over. Possible further damage escaped. But only on the field.
After the game, Charity’s father drove the three of us to a diner in the Astoria section of Queens where she ordered a cheeseburger deluxe with a side order of fries to go with the fries that came with the meal. Her father ordered a BLT with fries, while I ordered a turkey club light on the mayo.
“You were so good out there, bubbie.” Charity said with a mouthful of food.
“It was just a warm-up game, really. But thank you.” I lightly touched her hand and the electricity coming from her sent waves through my body.
“I really wasn’t trying to strike that guy out though. When the coach put me in the game?”
I looked to Charity’s father, Carl, for help in getting his daughter to understand what being on a team was like. We locked eyes and I sent my message.
“Sometimes just getting the job done quickly is better.”
“But it was Chase’s time to shine. It’s not his fault Toa Tokuchi couldn’t get the job done.”
“Who?” Carl said, now looking to me for answers. I laughed.
“You never listen when I talk, daddy. He’s the main guy in that anime I started watching when Chase and I began dating.”
“And which…anime? is that?”
“One Outs, duh. How else did I learn about baseball so quickly.”
Carl looked at me once more hoping I might be able to elaborate on his daughters ever growing interests. All I could offer was “I can’t keep up with it either. Sorry.”
“Speaking of cartoons,”
“Please do not call anime cartoons.”
“Are they not animated?”
“Yes. But it’s different.”
“It just is, daddy. Moving on…you were going to say something?”
Carl looked at his daughter with a raised eyebrow. Charity batted her eyes at her father then smiled.
“Anyway, did you hear? The first Green Lantern is being rewritten as a homosexual.”
“No way. When?” I said.
“It’s already happened.” Charity said.
“It has?” Carl said.
“Yea. A while ago. Didn’t I tell you?”
Carl looked up as if searching for something on the ceiling then looked back at his daughter. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”
“Fighting crime has rotted your memory. Or perhaps you’re-”
“Watch it young lady.”
“My apologies, Mister Stewart.”
By “Mister Stewart” Charity was referring to John Stewart, the man who proceeded Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. Charity fancies her father as a superhero. Once he introduced her to the DC universe she has been referring to her father as such. He blushes every time she does so, as he is now.
“Think you’ll fit in your dress after this feast?” I asked, waving a hand around her finished plates of food.
Three nods, then “Don’t worry Tigger the dress will be fine, and I will look stunning in it. Fat and all.”
“I have no doubt.”
While we gave one another lovey dovey eyes Carl looked at Charity then at me. “Dress for what?”
“You’re so forgetful. Chase has a sort of dance thingy for school and he asked me to go with him.”
“Easy enough choice since I wouldn’t wanna be caught dead with anyone else.”
“Or just caught dead. Cause then you couldn’t go.”
“I don’t even wanna go so I’d rather be dead.”
“Is that why there was a charge for $400 on my credit card?” Carl eyed Charity but not with suspicion. More like curiosity with a hint of despair.
“Oh. Right. Sorry daddy. I didn’t wanna spend that much. Honest.”
“This coming from the girl who spent that much on two dolls?”
“Figurines, daddy. And they’re rare. Worth a lot more than what I paid for them so your grandkids will have something of value to inherit.”
“What I paid for them. And I was hoping to not have the topic of grandchildren come up until you were in your thirties. Do me that favor, honey.”
“Fine. I won’t talk about the children you’ll eventually be graying while watching grow up.”
“You seem to be forgetting who pays for your tuition.”
Laughing, Charity said “sorry dad. I swear I didn’t wanna spend that much. You know I don’t care for clothes.”
With a grin while giving her the side eye he said, “I know honey. Sometimes I forget you’re growing up.” He kissed her forehead and that was that on the subject.
Carl paid the bill and drove me home. “Thank you for dinner, sir. It’s always a pleasure seeing you.” I said as he pulled in front of my apartment building. With a firm grip that I hope I’d matched we shook hands and then I exited the car, heading into my building.