I’m on the mound. Pretty tired. It’s the bottom of the eighth inning and we’re up by one run. Runners on first and second. Two out. All I need is one more out. The runner on first has a small lead but I throw over there anyway. I’m stalling for time.
I can’t concentrate. My mind is all over the place. I’m remembering things from eighth grade science and a vacation my family took to California when I was 12. This must be what it’s like to go crazy.
I get the ball back and pace around the mound for a bit. “Get it together, Barlow,” I tell myself. “Get it together.”
I get set and look in. Carl, the catcher, is signaling for a curveball. I hate throwing curveballs. It’s too hard on my arm and right now my arm feels like a piece of al dente fettuccini. I shake him off. He signals right back for the curve.
I can hear the crowd getting restless. I know it’s just a matter of time before the ump gives me a warning. Curveball it is.
As I release the ball I can feel pain going up to my elbow. Strike two.
“One more strike,” I tell myself. “One more. You can do this.”
The baseball curves because of the spin I put on it. The spin of the ball causes air to move faster on one side of the ball and that makes uneven pressure around the ball causing it to curve. I remember this from science class.
“Get it together, Barlow. You’re losing your mind,” I say out loud. No one can hear me but the sound of my voice snaps me back to reality.
Carl is calling for another curveball. I shake him off. He seems pissed. He gives me the signal for a fastball. That’s more my style.
It seems like as soon as I release the ball I hear a loud ping. I know the ball is gone. I don’t even turn around to look. The crowd is going nuts. I watch the batter strut down to first base. Then he stops.
“Foul ball!” I hear the ump say.
That was close. The batter walks back to the plate. We both know I just dodged a bullet.
A curveball is called for again. This time I nod my head in agreement. There is no way I’m throwing this guy another fastball.
I put everything I have into it and the pain is back in my arm as I release the ball. I wince. The ball breaks perfectly at the last minute and I have the guy swinging wildly at what was surely a ball.
I slowly walk off the mound to the dugout. I sit down and rub my arm. My fingers are starting to tingle. I stare out into the field, not really focusing on anything.
“Three more outs,” I tell myself. “Three more outs.”