I always thought it was poor form to walk into the manager’s office when he was working on his pitching assignment and lineup for the next game. Skip had enough on his mind and I let my teammates have it if I saw any of them try to influence his decisions. Let the man do what he was hired to do. If you’re good and can contribute you’ll be in the lineup. If you’re a pitcher and you’ve been outstanding like me you’ll most likely get that opening game of the World Series starting assignment so he can have you available to start again once or maybe twice more if the Series goes beyond four games. That’s where I found myself more than a few times and then on top of that I would oftentimes get the call to pitch in relief because my stuff was always better than anything we had coming out of the bullpen even on my off days when I was a little tired from my last game (am I bragging? Just check my stats).
It’s all very quiet when you walk to the mound and block out the over 40000 screaming fans going nuts in the stands. As I would make that walk all that I ever heard were the mouthed words of my catcher who had become a full partner in taking our team to the pennant. He and I were together a long time and worked out of an awful lot of tight spots so when we would meet half way between home and the mound I could tell that he knew we could pull this off one more time. What a guy. Not just for the games he called and the jams he helped me get out of but also for the support I knew he would give me on those days, my off days, when Skip would call me into his office to tell me I was going to start in the outfield or at third because the team needed my bat.
I’ve had a number of personal issues come up and haven’t played for a while so it was pretty great last Sunday when, at the crack of the bat, I looked up into the blue sky and realized that I had a good chance of pulling in the pop foul. A few years ago I would have had no problem with that catch but time marches on and as it came down I just barely grazed the ball as it fell to the ground in front of a grandmother and her two grandchildren. It was then that my instincts took over and I scrambled down like a cat and picked up the ball after it rolled under the lady’s seat just ahead of my granddaughter who was coming on pretty darn quick. It was all mine and as I raised that ball above my head I could feel those thousands of eyes just like the old days.
Yeah, it all came flooding back, my name being announced to the stadium as I came into the game, the cheers of the fans, the almost daily pitching jams in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series classics, setting down the heart of the order every inning, the twelve no-hitters (three consecutive), the four perfect games and my dad yelling at me to stop throwing the tennis ball at the front steps before I break the screen door. It was all there just like the old days and it felt good. You know, I really should look up Johnny. I’ll bet he’s still there crouching down and ready to go in front of the steps at my parent’s old house even after all these years. Good old Johnny.