Zero-zero, bottom of the 7th, 1 out, bases loaded, Ron Paul steps up to the plateSubmitted by Ron Johnson on Wed, 05/16/2012 - 07:41
The crowd is chanting wildly "Grand Slam! Grand Slam!" The game has been closer than anyone had any reason to expect. The Team should have folded long ago, taken their lickin' and gone home. But here, now, at the bottom of the 7th, they have a chance to clinch it.
Ron Paul steps up to the plate. He hears the crowd. They want a win, and they want it now. If he feels the pressure of their expectations, he doesn't show it. His face is unmoved as he concentrates. He intends to win the game, the series, and the season.
The first pitch is high inside. Ron pulls back and avoids taking one on the chin. Ball one. He steps back into the batters box and stares down the pitcher. The second pitch hits the dirt in front of the plate, ball two.
The crowd begins booing. They want their Grand Slam! Give him a good pitch, they scream. The pitcher ignores the hostile voices. He knows what is at stake. If he walks Ron, he loses. If he pitches to Ron, he may lose big time.
On the windup, the pitcher is ever so slightly off balance, and the ball whizzes by Ron's knees, over the plate. Ron senses a moment's hesitation and turns to the umpire. "Strike," he says. The ump is shocked. "Strike," Ron repeats. The ump calls out "Strike One!"
The crowd boos louder. "You're blind, ump!" They are rowdy and agitated. The ump turns his back to the crowd, uneasy.
The pitcher winds up and sends a curveball over the plate. Ron swings for the bleachers, and misses. "Strike Two," the ump calls. Ron steps out of the batter's box. The chants are louder than ever "Grand Slam! Grand Slam!" He hears it. He knows what is expected of him. He mentally shuts the door in his mind to block out the crowd who, swilling their beer and munching on hot dogs, want satisfaction.
Ron steps back into the batter's box. The pitch comes over high and inside, again. Ball three.
Full count. The crowd cannot contain itself. They are mad at the pitcher for throwing unpredictably. They are mad at the ump for calling balls and strikes. They are mad at Ron for whiffing what appeared to be a perfectly good pitch. They want their grand slam. They will settle for nothing less.
Ron steps in the batters box. He's done this many times before. This is where ball players are separated from chest-thumping wannabees. The pitcher is at his moment of truth: walk, run, or strike out. There is only one option...he MUST deliver a strike and hope for the best.
"Here you go, Ron," the pitcher says to himself. He launches a blistering fastball, dead center over the plate. The time between leaving his hand and arriving at the plate is amazingly short. Ron's brain works fast, unconsciously...speed, direction, height,...he is concentrating so hard that he swears he can see the stitches on the ball.
He flicks the bat, connects, and sends the ball skating over the ground between the first and second basemen. The right field outfielder runs up and scoops the ball, then twitches the ball to the first baseman. Easy out. Ron couldn't possibly run fast enough to beat that play. He walks off the field, amid some applause, but mostly silence. The crowd is disappointed. Ron didn't measure up. They didn't get their grand slam.
When Ron gets back to the dugout, he sees the manager. "Sorry, I didn't have it in me." The manager points to the scoreboard: 1-0. Almost forgotten in the excitement over a possible Grand Slam was the runner who came home while Ron was being tagged out at first.
The manager pats him on the back. "Advance the runner. That's the game." Ron looks out on the crowd that has already forgotten him and is chanting mindlessly at a new batter, demanding satisfaction.
He sits on the bench, stretches out, and smiles.