It was a cold, getting colder by the moment late-March evening. I was a short, skinny kid in my first year of organized baseball in one of my first games. I loved the sport with a passion, but was petrified when it actually came time to pick up a bat. We were facing a long, tall, hard-throwing lefty pitcher and I happened to be a rookie left-handed batter—easy pickings.
I hate to admit it now but when we were warming up for the game and I saw this younger “Randy Johnson” warming up, I sheepishly walked up to the coach and told him that I wasn’t feeling very well and asked if I could sit out, maybe pinch-hit later in the game. The coach was an old school kind of baseball man, very rough around the edges and very intimidating, but looking back an honestly good man who dedicated dozens of hours of his free time and cared deeply about the kids.
He told me to “get lost!”
I remember him trying to instill in me proper hitting mechanics.
“Keep that %$#&@ elbow up!”
“Ted Williams you ain’t!”—good times! 😀
Anyway, the game was moving along. I had batted exactly three times and struck out three times on a total of nine pitches.
The sun was beginning to set and I was praying for darkness as it was getting close to my turn up in the lineup again. We were down to our last at-bats down by a score of 3-1 and it looked like I was going to have my wish granted.
Our first batter was retired very quickly on strikes.
Then the next batter who probably had the best contact of the night hit the ball very hard but right at the dominating pitcher.
Then the magic began.
With two outs and the sky getting increasingly darker, our next batter battled for a base on balls. There was still one batter due up before me, so I begrudgingly went out to the on-deck circle almost hoping that my teammate would either make a quick out or that the umpire would call the game due to darkness.
My heart was racing at the prospects of facing this phenom again. I kept thinking about some of the previous at-bats and that killer fastball.
I took a few practice swings and then the unthinkable happened.
On the very first pitch, my teammate took a fastball right in the shoulder and was awarded first base.
It was showtime.
I could sort of sense my teammates angst. I looked absolutely pathetic in my prior at-bats and peripherally I could see some of them gathering their things in disappointment.
I don’t know exactly what I was thinking, but in a split second decided to take the first pitch and it trailed outside for ball one.
The next pitch was straight down Broadway and I swung with no specific intent, but felt something very rare and strange.—a connection.
I saw the ball being launched into the darkening skies far over the second baseman’s head, heading toward the right-center field gap. I ran probably faster than I have ever ran in my life and when it was all said and done ended up at second base standing with a two-run, game tying double.
My team’s bench exploded into pandemonium and the opposition was shocked.
So was I.
The umpire had no choice but to call the game as a tie due to darkness.
The moral of the story? Face the fear. That is where the magic lies.