This is part of the April 2021 Story Time Blog Hop. Check out the links at the bottom to other great and fast reads.
Stephanie Wright knew the job of being the first woman in Major League Baseball was dangerous when she took it.
Opening day’s theme was April Fools, though this game was the home opener, April ninth. Self-styled fools were in the stands, having a great time. Santa’s elves danced in the left field bleachers, Frankenstein’s monster entertained some kids in the field level boxes and someone was dressed like Jesus. Whatever, dude. Great to see fans enjoying the ball park, though. Cardboard cutouts in the seats and canned crowd noise last season sucked.
From the on deck circle she saw Brady, the pitcher she worked with most closely. on the bench. She was honored the veteran requested she catch him in all his starts. They hung out a lot. He gave a thumbs up. She gave one back. Gaze returning to the field, she watched the visitor’s starter take the mound.
Ervin’s tendency was to throw inside the strike zone, the ball coming dangerously close to beaning the batter. A fireballer, he threw anywhere from ninety-nine miles per hour to one hundred three.
Talk about dangerous. Yikes!
The first pitch to teammate Jenkins was outside. The catcher did a psychological trick called framing the pitch. Many good catchers used it. Set up the mitt as if you caught the ball behind the plate, even though it was outside the strike zone. No rule against it. A patient batter might not swing, but the umpire would call a strike.
Ervin threw a second, then a third. The umpire called all three strikes, even when Jenkins jumped out of the batter’s box to avoid getting hit.
Stephanie rotated her shoulder. The bruise from the bean ball last game complained. She imagined broadcast announcers saying, “Rookie catcher Wright, leading the league in hit by pitch.”
Hashtag Stop Hitting Wright was a thing. It pissed off her team. None more so than Brady.
Strike three called—batter up. Shake it off.
“Number twenty-two, catcher Stephanie Wright,” blasted the P.A.
Fans cheered wildly to her walk up music.
Greeting the umpire and visitor’s catcher, she took the chalk box to right of home.
Swinging the bat, she squared up. Ervin’s fast ball left a reaction time of zero point four seconds. Sometimes less.
See the ball.
Find the seams.
Ervin nodded, accepting his catcher’s pitch selection. Left hand rearing back, he launched a rocket four seamer.
He’d aimed at her head, straight for her eye. Get out of the way! But there was no time. She turned her head and braced herself.
Pain detonated beyond excruciating. Like a fly squashed by a swatter, she dropped. Fans booed. The training and coaching staff ran to her side. Brady jumped the dugout fence and sat, calling her name.
The stands went deathly silent.
The umpire tossed Ervin, who brazenly chattered back. Brady led the charge as the home dugout emptied. The visitor’s did the same. All four umpires and both managers yelled at one another while wading through players to keep them from killing each other.
The trainer worked to get her to respond. The crowd egged on the brawl.
Wait. How was she seeing all of this? Why was she just laying there?
The sounds from the stadium went on mute.
“Stephanie,” said a voice nearby.
Turning, a petite dark haired woman with angelic features glowed, hovering beside her.
“M-mother? You’re dead,” Stephanie said. Then a startled, “Am I?”
“Nearly. Not quite,” said her mother softly.
“Mom, I miss you.” Stephanie said wanting to cry, but couldn’t.
“It will hurt, but you must go back,” mother said.
“Will I still be able to play? Will I have brain damage?” She’d just made it to the bigs.
“This is your calling. I can help you, but only if you go back now.”
The players were corralled in their dugouts by security. Brady stood behind the trainers. Were those tears?
Tom Hanks in the movie A League Of Their Own came to mind, saying, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
Did Mom just push her?
In a flash excruciating pain was her world. She’d scream but that would hurt worse. She groaned as sound returned.
“Please, Stephanie. Wake up,” Brady said.
“Stephanie, can you hear me?” asked the trainer.
“My head’s painful A.F.,” mumbled Stephanie.
“I’m proud of you, mija. Every day,” said mother.
Mom clapped her hands. A lightning sensation shot through Stephanie’s skull in a good way. Pain still throbbed, but she could bear it. “Get me up,” she said.
“You took a nasty hit. We’re getting the EMTs. We need to do concussion protocols,” said the trainer.
“Get me up!” she insisted. She tried to sit up.
Her mother’s spirit faded with a smile.
Reaching out a hand, Stephanie didn’t want her to go.
A hand took hers.
“Brady,” she said recognizing her team mate. Planting her feet, several hands helped her to stand. The crowd applauded, a few whistled.
“You looked dead,” he said.
“You’ve gone soft ,” she teased.
They made the nerve jangling walk toward the club house and medical facilities together.
“I hear green tea and dark chocolate are good for concussion,” she said.
Brady still held her hand, his other arm steadying her. With mock disgust he said, “Chocoholic.”
“Buy me some for after my CT scan.” Did she just smile? Did Brady just blush?
“Don’t ever scare me like that again,” Brady said.
It hurt to chuckle. “You’re sweet on me.”
Carefully taking the steps into the dugout, Brady made a noise in his throat. “You’re my catcher.”
His expression told her it sounded lame even to him.
“Stop throwing me curve balls,” she said. They moved into the darkness of the tunnel leading to the clubhouse.
“After she’s checked out,” urged the trainer.
“Weirdo,” said Brady.
“You like me,” she accused.
“If I admit it will you shut up and get treated?” he asked testily.
She mustered a smile despite the pain. “I like you, too.”
Thank you for reading! Don’t forget to check out others below.
April Story Time Blog Hop Continues with these great stories:
- Bees by Barbara Lund
- Welcome To Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop by Juneta Key
- Bullied by Elizabeth McCleary
- A Day to Remember by Katharina Gerlach
- Were’s the Rabid Rabbit Jemma Weir
- VI – The Lovers by Raven O’Fiernan
- Grit Nearly Succeeds by Bill Bush
- Love’s Sweet Prick by Sabrina Rosen
- For a Breath of Air by Nic Steven
- Pitch by Sandra Llyn