Here comes the ball.
As it hits my glove, dust erupting from within, I can no longer deny it. The count is 3-0. Three balls, no strikes… three balls… no strikes. I turn and walk back to the top of the circle, kicking the chalk, punishing it for my mistake. It’s a feeble victory in my eyes. I look up as my infield stares back at me like soldiers beholding their captain.
Only I hold the future of this battle.
Turning, I dip down and brush my fingers in the dirt. As I rise the umpire’s voice screeches in my ears. Those balls feel like bullets in my armor. My catcher claps her glove and points at me nodding her head. Her mouth moves but her encouragement is muffled by the booming of “3-0.” I grind the ball in my glove as the batter digs into the box.
I approach the rubber and run my foot over it to clear the dust. Partly because I’m stalling, partly because I’m a perfectionist. Left toe on the back, right toe hanging off the front. I stand, glove on my hip, hand at my side. I stare toward the batter. My gaze slowly reaches hers. She’s confident and her eyes mock me. A breeze picks up and sends chills across my neck and down my back. I take a deep breath.
Down 3-0. Curve ball is breaking too much and she won’t touch the drop ball. She’ll eat my fastball for breakfast and my change-up is off. Rise ball? But what if it doesn’t break? It’ll be right in her wheelhouse. But maybe she’ll pop it up and we’ll be out of this. That’s all I got. It’s got to be the rise. Battle Jess, battle.
I dig my toe in and begin my windup. As the ball soars toward the plate, I realize that my wrist didn’t break enough. She’s going to cream it!
She didn’t bite! She expected me to walk her and she didn’t bite! I walk back through my normal routine and approach the rubber, this time with more confidence. How about another rise? This time with more juice.
OK, I’ve battled back, but there’s no way she’ll let another rise ball go by. I’ve got to throw her off balance. Change-up? It hasn’t been hitting all day, but maybe I can catch her out front.
I let it fly. Wrist snapped back, fingers tucked in, beautiful. I watch as she takes her step and rotates her hips. I’ve got her. Sure enough, the bat comes whipping around. As she finishes her swing, the ball slowly floats across the plate.
It’s no wonder that during my days of being a pitcher that my dad most enjoyed watching me when I was down in the count. It was the ultimate test of strength and character. When everything is going wrong, when you can’t throw a strike, when it feels like the batters are forming a conga line around the bases, that’s when you comes out. The real you.
Being a pitcher has taught me to carry this confidence with me in every situation. No matter how bad things get, I know I can battle back. This blog is dedicated to the good times and the bad. For all the strikeouts and walks. Whether it’s 3-0 or 0-2 the next pitch is yours. Let’s see it!