Tyus stepped into the batter’s box. He knelt down, picked up some dirt, and clapped it between his batting gloves. He thought it meant good luck.
The pitcher was a gangly bastard. 6’5 and milk white. Witz was his name. The scouting report said he could hit 100mph on the radar gun. The first pitch came high and tight. He could feel the breeze on his chin as it exploded into the catcher’s mitt.
The next pitch was coming straight down the middle. Tyus squeezed the bat handle, cocked his left leg upward, and gave it a nice smooth cut. But it hit nothing. The ball had taken a nosedive before home plate and rolled all the way to the backstop.
Milk white hocked a huge loogie in the direction of third base. Behind him Tyus caught a glimpse of the centerfielder adjusting his cup. Spyzo was his name.
Witz let another one fly and before he knew what had happened, Tyus was lying on his back. Ball 2.
The fourth pitch came high and tight once more, but this time Tyus connected. It was good wood too. He watched the baseball soar into the warm night’s sky, and took a few steps up the first baseline. But the ball was hooking.
He gritted his teeth. Witz watched with his hands at his hips. Foul ball.
Tyus dug in once more. Witz leaned in for the sign. He shook off the catcher Mordzynski. Then shook him off again. Tyus took a step out of the box and adjusted his gloves. When he stepped back in, Witz quick-pitched him! It was all he could do to get the barrel of the bat around. He watched as the ball rolled lamely towards the visitor’s dugout.
Before the next pitch, Witz raised his eyebrow at Tyus, as if to say “how ya’ doin?” Then he uncorked a 101mph laser that just missed the outside corner.
The at-bat had now roused the interest of the crowd. They started chanting “Tyus Smyus” over and over.
Tyus exhaled to calm himself. He watched as Witz danced his fingers along the threads of the baseball, tickling it ever so gently. He then hid the ball in his mitt, and went into his windup.
“Tyus Smyus, Tyus Smyus.”
The ball came hurtling towards home plate. “Fastball,” Tyus thought to himself. He cocked his leg up, preparing to swing. Then suddenly, the ball began to dive out of the strike zone. But it was too late to hold off. Tyus reached out and poked the dying quail. With a dull crack, it looped into the air. The second baseman, a rookie named Melly, read it off the bat and began backpedaling.
But she miscalculated. The ball kept drifting. Spyzo sensed trouble. He darted towards the infield. Tyus saw it all and broke into a sprint. He kicked up dirt as his cleats kissed first and rounded towards second.
The ball dropped unceremoniously between Melly and Spyzo. Spzyo scooped it and threw to the shortstop Rona covering second base. But he bounced it, and Rona couldn’t come up with the scoop.
The ball trickled down towards first. Tyus bounded off second base and headed for third.
The first baseman, a heavy hitter named Leezus Bejesus, came charging. In one motion, he barehanded the baseball and threw it across his body to third baseman Scooter Gennett. But the throw was a wild one, and went over Gennett’s head. Mordzynski came charging up the third-baseline to gather the ball, which had rolled up next to the camera wells.
Seeing this, Tyus decided to take a large turn and steal down the third baseline towards home.
Standing there was Witz.
Tyus looked over his shoulder and saw Mordzynski had gathered the ball.
“Tyus Smyus” the crowd chanted.
Mordzynski threw a frozen rope towards home plate. Witz gloved it.
Tyus had been beaten. Or had he?
He turned around and headed towards third. Witz winged the ball to Gennett, who now came chasing. Tyus pivoted and headed back towards home. But Leezus Bejesus had come in to cover home plate.
With a quick heel turn, he retreated to third base again. Mordzynski reached for the throw from Bejesus, but it was high. Tyus dove between the catcher’s legs and wrapped his arms around third. The ball kissed off Mordzynski’s glove and rolled into left field.
The third base coach, Edward Blair, urged him to stay. But Tyus was determined. He stumbled off third and raced towards home.
Bouggg, the left fielder, came charging in to recover the ball. With a good throw, she knew she had Tyus dead to rights.
Right fielder Vicki Horowitz looked on in awe.
The throw was perfect. Witz stood guarding home plate with kneecaps bent and arms wide.
Tyus’ only salvation was to knock that ball out of Witz’s glove.
He dove towards home cleats first. His spikes caught Witz in the legs and flipped him over. Upside down in midair, Witz reached his glove arm down and swiped Tyus across the back of his helmet. He came crashing down on his neck, the ball firmly in his mitt.
“YOU’RE OUT” yelled home plate umpire Steve Bono.
Bejesus, Spyzo, Melly, Rona, Vicki, Bouggg, Mordzynski, and Scooter Gennett all trotted towards homeplate to check on their fallen pitcher.
A hush fell over the crowd.
“Witzy” said Rona. “Are you okay?”
“OOOOO YEAH, I NAILED HIM,” he exclaimed
Spyzo grabbed his arm and pulled him up off the dirt. The team retook their positions out in the field.
Dejected, Tyus trotted back to the dugout. He shoved his batting gloves in his pocket, and took a position on the top step of the dugout.
A cool breeze passed through the stadium. Witz went into his windup.