The Name Game - 01.30.98

(editors note: yup, another old story re-written. the funniest part is that most of it is true.)

When I was a little kid, I really used to think that my name was neat. I was from a very small town and I thought it was unique. There were a lot of John's and Ryan's around, but my name was cool because it was different, and I thought that nobody else had it. That all changed soon enough, though.

During the fifth grade, I played for the towns little-league baseball team. The way the league was set up is that every small town in our area had a team. Every Thursday night, there would be games between the little-league teams from each town.

On one of these evenings, I was making one of my first appearences as our teams pitcher. I had fairly good control on my pitches and I could throw it pretty fast because I was big for my age. The coach had his favorites, but he decided to take a chance on me. Batting was never really my thing, so I basically rode the bench until my chance on the mound.The coach wasn't being let down by my performance that night. Only one person had gotten a hit off me, and no runs had scored.

The problem with the situation was that some kid with the same name as me was coming up to bat. They had announced it over the loudspeaker, and somehow his namesake made him into my instant nemesis. I stood on that mound and watched him very carefully. He tossed down the rosin-bag and twisted his hands around the grip of the bat as he slowly walked over to the plate. Like everyone else our age, he imitated the major-leaguers as best he could. He came around to the right side of the plate, got into his stance, and took a couple half-hearted practice swings.

There were two outs and a man on first, so I knew what I had to do. I took a breath and started on my wind-up. I could see his concentration as I released the pitch and went into my follow-through. Upon my release, I could see that his concentration was broken. As he shrugged backwards and tried to step out of the way, the pitch zoomed into his ribs just under his left arm.

The bat dropped to the ground and he fell to his knees as he tried to regain his breath. His coaches rushed from the dugout and pored over him, making sure he was allright. After a few moments, he stood up and tried to shake it off. The pitch had knocked the wind out of him, that was all.

As he slowly walked over to first base, I saw what I had been hoping for since I had let go of that pitch--he was crying. I could see him trying to hold it back in front of his team and the rest of us, but he was sniffling rather loudly and wiping his eyes.

The next batter popped out to the shortstop and then the inning was over. Upon my return to the dugout, my coach informed me that I would need a little more practice pitching. He took me out of the game, but I didn't really even care about it by then. I sat on the end of the bench spitting sunflower seeds, feeling that on this day I was the better of the namesake.