Okay. No pressure. Baseball. I’ve seen it a handful of times. I know what I’m doing. Kinda.
I mean I’ve been the last kid picked all school year and now Bobby Kani decided to give me a chance. I wasn’t picked first, second or third. I was somewhere in the middle.
This isn’t intramurals either. This is gym class. Baseball usually doesn’t have timer, but our class has less than ten minutes until Mr. Derrian, our gym teacher, calls time and we head off to lunch.
“Hey! Snotty,” Tom yelled from the outfield. He pointed at third base where I was. Few things: my mom loves me more than you think. My name’s Scott or Scotty if we’re friends. Everyone else in third grade calls me Snotty. It was flu season last year and I sneezed a lot and snot flew out and no one cared to tell me. Second, I knew where I was supposed to be. My feet were next to third base. I’ve been known to daydream.
It was Tanks vs Tees. I’m on Team Tank with team captain Bobby. He puts me on third base. It’s a stressful place to be. If I screw up, we could lose the game. I don’t want that kind of responsibility. But I want to make friends. My friends from last year like comic books. Nothing wrong with comics, but I wouldn’t mind expanding my horizons like my older brother, Nick who’s in high school, says.
“Ass-Scott,” Tom growled as he pointed at third base.
Bobby’s on the mound. He’s been dominating. Then there’s Ben. He’s catching. Nia is at first base. Marlon is at second. Tom, Randy and Will are patrolling the outfield. Matt’s shortstop. And then there’s me. It’s basically a team full of cool kids and the scuff known as me in the hot corner. The most important corner. Wish I could stop sweating.
Did I mention bases are loaded? And if someone hits a home run, then our three run lead is crushed.
Bobby’s good but the Tees put their best players together. Tony’s up. He’s the team captain of the Tees. He matches cool with Bobby. They have this standoff as Bobby is on this mound. Bobby has the ball in his hand and he squints. A strand of his black hair pops over his forehead. Tony squints with a smile as he grips the bat. What am I doing here?
Tony readies himself to hit. Bobby and Ben stare at each other. Ben crouches and silently speaks to him with his hands. I wish I knew what they were saying. I keep my eye on the ball. Tanya is on base with me. I might have screwed up before. Tom threw it over my head into the bleachers. I can’t jump that high. And I’m not tall. It’s like Tom doesn’t want to win.
“Good luck, Scott,” Tanya says with her arms crossed.
“Huh,” I said.
“I’m wishing you good luck.”
My eyes are peeled on the mound. “Aren’t you trying to win,” I ask from the corner of my mouth.
“I am,” Tanya says in a flat voice.
“So why are you wishing me good luck?”
“Cause when you lose, you’ll have the entire summer to think about this one game. And then the other boys will think about it too. They’re just going to think about how Scott ruined their summer.”
The sweat is pouring now. It’s uncomfortable. She’s making me uncomfortable. “It’s just a game,Tanya.”
“It’s just the cool kids, Scotty.”
She was right. The cool kids were all on this team. I shouldn’t be surprised. Bobby picked them all. Wait up! Did Bobby think I was cool too?
Tony flashed a look at me over his shoulder. Did I see that right? Hold on. Bobby reeled back for his pitch and released. I punched my mitt. Tony swung and connected. And so began the end of my childhood. The ball was flying right towards me.
“Good luck loser,” she said.
I wanted to run. Left right. Duck. But the ball still hurtled towards me. Who thought this was a good idea for a game? I planted my feet on the ground. I shoved my mitt in the space in front of me. Bobby threw it hard. And tony hit it hard. Either way this was going to hurt.
I held my wrist stuff with my free hand and closed my eyes. It would all be over soon. Catch the ball. Strike out. The cool kids carry me out on their shoulders into the best summer ever.
That’s not what happened.
And oh… don’t ever do what I did. Don’t close your eyes. The ball didn’t head towards me. It hooked a left between me and Tanya. I could feel the ball sail past me and away. My hand jerked towards the ball. It grazed my mitt. I knew I slowed it down, but I didn’t catch it. The ball rolled in the dirt while Tanya waved at me as she skipped towards home plate.
Bobby’s head fell back in agony. Tom and Will roared in slow motion. This was bad.
I spun around. How could I run faster than a ball? The ball hit the ground. I ran towards it. I grabbed it. I was afraid to see the disappointment of the cool kids. I threw it up in the air. So dumb. I could’ve thrown in straight. I threw it up. Because I tripped. Zach was about to score a second run. Not good. I stumbled back to my feet and ran toward third base.
Ben stood and raised his mitt to catch the ball. Zach crosses home plate. Sonya was approaching third base.
Ben caught it!
Sonya was trapped between me and Ben. The kids yelled for me Derrian to keep the game going. Okay. Tag. I can do tag. It’s just tag with a ball. This girl was not going to ruin my summer.
Sonya ran towards third base. Ben chucked the ball towards me. My foot… I planted on third and kept my eyes peeled as Sonya slid towards my ankles. This was going to hurt.
I caught it! Thank God I did! But it’s not over. I brought the glove down to tag her and closed my eyes. Sonya collided into me and I fell like bricks. A light bag of bricks.
Mr. Derrian could be heard telling everyone to break it up so Sonya could breathe.
“Let’s see here,” Mr. Derrian said with his hands on his hips. “Are you okay,” he said warmly to the both of us. A few cuts and bruises, but I’m not whining about that. Small price to pay for the glory to play on the diamond.
“Did we win,” Sonya and I said at the same time.
Mr. Derrian chuckled silently. “We’re all winners.”
I rolled my eyes.
“But, did I win,” Sonya said.
“Let’s see,” Mr. Derrian said as he inspected the base and the both of us. He held his chin with his hand as he studied the both of us as we dusted ourselves off. He smiled. I could feel the other team grinning. Mr. Derrian pointed at my glove. I couldn’t believe it.
“Looks like Scott caught it,” Mr. Derrian said happily. “And held onto it. The tanks win!”
The tanks threw their gloves in the air and Bobby ran over to me and picked me up. I somehow inherited new friends with the cool kids.
This was going to be an amazing summer.
“Thanks for the pep talk, Tanya,” I said as I was carried away by the cool kids.