The Pitcher

Part 1

“You’ve got to strive to be the best. You must believe that you can be the best, regardless of others’ opinions. Only then will you achieve great things”.

Lance Mcfly’s pitching coach was more than just a teammate – he was a mentor; and an inspiration.

“Thanks Jeb” answered Lance.  Jeb Stevens had been the pitching coach for the Kaper University Archers for the last 15 years.  He, along with manager Irvin Tisdale, led the University baseball team to 7 divisional championships in the last 12 years.  Out of those division appearances, the Archers went on to win the championship 5 times. However, they had not been to the division finals in the last 4 years.

What attributed to the recent decline in team performance?

“Could it be the players?” thought Jeb to himself.

“No, no – a good coach doesn’t blame the players. A good coach can turn rookies into winners.” – concluded Jeb.

“Well, then. It must be me” Jeb disappointedly surmised.

“I’ve lost my touch to develop good players. I’ve lost my knack at creating strong teams.”

At just the right time, Lance’s words took Jeb out of his own head and lifted his spirits.

“Coach, you always know the right things to say. You’ve really helped me develop into a great pitcher and I will not let you down Friday night.”

In just two days, it was Game 7 of the division championship. Lance had a chance to pitch in the final game of the Divisional World Series.  If the Archers could win this game, then they will be able to claim their first championship in almost 5 years.  A win would silence the critics of long time pitching Coach Jeb Stevens and manager Irvin Tisdale.  The Archers have seen a decline in success over the last several years. A win on Friday would place the Archers back on the scene as one of the most successful teams in the College baseball circuit.  In addition to all this, if Lance could pitch an effective game, his growing community of critics would also be silenced.

 

Part 2

“There’s too much on the line. The boy can’t pitch tomorrow, Jeb.”  Lance McFly overheard Gene Lebelle, the University Director of Athletic, speaking with pitching Coach Jeb Stevens in the team managers’ office.

“C’mon Gene” pitching coach Jeb Stevens retorted. “Mcfly has proven himself all year. He’s got an amazing record of 9-1 with an earned run average of 1.03. Do you know what that means?”

Lance was planning on speaking with the coach on his pitch selection for tomorrow’s big game. He was, however, stopped short when he heard the intense conversation between the two.  Jeb sounded confident and sure, whilst Lebelle sounded anxious and worried.

“I know what 9-1 means. I know what the low E.R.A. means. That means that — ”.  Lebelle began to answer, but the passionate pitching coach did not let him continue.

“That means that he gives up on average of less than one run per game!   This is the guy who we want on the mound! Statistics don’t lie, Gene”

Lebelle had taken over the job of Director Of Athletics for the University about 2 ½ years ago after their previous director retired.  Faced with having to live up to the performance of the previous director, Lebelle was hungry for his first championship win. The Archers have not won a championship under Lebelle’s administration and rumours were circulating that the board was beginning to get impatient. Even worse, there were many in the community who were starting to believe that the Archers’ best days were behind them.

Lebelle had faith in the coaching prowess of Jeb Stevens. He marveled at the managerial skills of Irvin Tisdale. However, there was one hang-up he could not let go of. He shouted:

“The boy’s got only one arm!”

There was a long pause before Stevens answered.

“The boy does not have one arm, Mr. Lebelle. He’s got one hand. There’s a big difference. He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to maneuver the glove around his arm. He –

Lebelle lost his patience and was now yelling. “Listen! One arm! One hand! I don’t care! He ain’t got 10 fingers! Ok – and lemme tell you this! If we don’t win tomorrow – I’m going to have to answer to the board! And if I have to answer to the board – you’re going to have to answer to me!”

 

Part 3

Lance Mcfly heard the critics all year long. In fact, he’s heard it for all of his life. All throughout little league, to high school varsity ball, all the way to the University level; everyone doubted his ability to pitch.  They thought that just because he was born with one hand, he would be unable to pitch for a baseball team.

“I only need one hand to pitch” Lance would always answer his naysayers with that response.

Not only would he silence them with his quick witted reply, but he would also silence them when they saw him on the pitching mound.  Lance pitched with his left hand. He placed his glove on the base of his right arm, where his right hand would be. Except for Lance, there was no right hand. He defied all the odds and figured out how to place his glove on his right arm and quickly slide his glove onto his left hand to field after he was done with his rotation in delivering the ball to the plate. It was quite an amazing feat and one that he mastered well. With a record over the last 2 years of 20-4, Lance proved that he can pitch with the best of them.
Lance overcame kids that made fun of him in grade school, teachers that doubted him in high school, and players who underestimated him in college.Now, in Game 7 of the Division Championship, Lance found himself in the centre of attention. The Archers were leading 1-0 after a 5th inning solo home run by first baseman Jake Roberts. With a runner on first after a walk, just 2 outs remained between the Archers and the division championship.  After the walk, Roberts left his first base post to talk to Lance.

“Lance, you got a chance to put this in the bag. I know you can do it, man.”

Lance appreciated the words of advice and pitched a 96 mph fastball straight down the middle for a call strike to the  next batter.  He followed up with a breaking ball which fooled the batter into a swing and a miss.  The third strike came after a nasty looking slider that the batter could not connect on.

“Yeah!!!” screamed manager Irvin Tisdale.  He said something to Stevens on the bench. As a result, Stevens ran out to the pitching mound to talk to the one-handed enigma.

“You’re about to achieve something great, kid. Remember all those times people told you that you couldn’t pitch ‘cos you got one hand?”

Lance nodded ‘Yes’, as the sweat came dripping from his head.

“Well, forget about all of them! Forget about those opinions! Only you can make yourself great! And only you can make yourself mediocre – not them – not anyone – but you! We’re about to make history – and so are you. Go get ’em kid!”

The crowd cheered as the coach gave Lance a hearty pat on the back before retrieving to the dugout.  They were now one out away from a championship victory.

The catcher gave the sign for the pitch. He wanted a breaking ball. Lance began to think about how the batter would swing.

Is he going to swing for a home run to take the lead on one swing?

Or will he try to just get a bloop base hit to advance the runner?

Or maybe he’ll aim for the gap to tie the game?

As Lance pondered the different scenarios, he knew that each pitch would have to be his very best. One pitch that hung over the plate could easily be lifted over the fence.  If that happens, the entire landscape of the game would change. Not only would he have given up the lead, but the Archers would be in danger of losing.

Lance delivered the first pitch. The batter, instead of swinging, squared to bunt. The announcer was heard loud and clear calling this historic moment in Archer team history.

“…the batter lays down a bunt!  The batter lays down a bunt! And he’s heading to first base! And…and…it’s Mcfly! Mcfly is charging the plate to field the ball. He switches his glove and scoops up the ball! And look at this – he slides the glove off to his right arm, ball in his left hand – first the ball to first – HE’S OUT!!!

The Archers win the championship! The Archers win the championship!! What a game! History has been made!!”

Lance threw up his hands in celebration as his team rushed to the mound. As everyone celebrated in the middle of the field, the words of ptching coach Jeb Stevens rung in the ears of Lance Mcfly….

“You’ve got to strive to be the best. You must believe that you can be the best, regardless of others’ opinions. Only then will you achieve great things”.

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