Driving home from downtown Montpelier this evening I turned the radio on to the Red Sox game against the Tigers. Now, downtown Montpelier is only three and half miles from my house (about six minutes by car), so I didn’t hear very much of the game, but what I heard took me back to a vivid memory of childhood.
On the mound for the Tigers was their ace Max Scherzer. At bat for the Red Sox was the bottom third of their batting order, their weakest hitters: Jackie Bradley, Jr., Will Middlebrooks, and David Ross. Scherzer struck out all three of them, throwing, if memory serves, a total of 11 or 12 pitches in the entire inning. (The minimum you can throw to strike out three batters is nine pitches.)
Even a great, great pitcher like Scherzer will have to work a little against good hitters, but against three weak hitters he showed no mercy.
I really felt for the hitters. Listening to Scherzer blow away Bradley, Middlebrooks, and Ross reminded me of my one “at bat” in Little League. I was an avid baseball player when I was a kid, and perfectly decent on our neighborhood team, but the one year I played on a Little League team I was young (probably 10) and small. As is typical for a young, small player, I sat on the bench almost the entire season. (My abiding memory of “playing Little League baseball” is one of unremitting boredom.)
I got to play at the end of the last game of the year. The coach sent me up to pinch hit. I’d been sitting on the bench the entire game with no expectation that I’d play – the coach hadn’t told me to expect to play – and I nearly jumped out of my skin when he told me to pinch hit for the next batter. But it didn’t take long for the adrenaline to start pumping, and I was excited and ready as I dug in at home plate.
But I had never so much as taken a swing during any of the Little League practices, so I wasn’t used to seeing a pitcher pitch from a pitcher’s mound. Now I’m sure it wasn’t a very high mound, but it gave the pitcher some stature. And the pitcher himself, in my memory, must have been close to six feet tall. He was clearly (in my memory) approaching or past puberty. I don’t know how tall I was or how much I weighed when I was 10, but I doubt it was much: I was only 5’4″ and 100 pounds when I was 14.
The point is, I was David, the pitcher was Goliath, and he had the slingshot. I had a terrifyingly vivid image of the pitcher having to look down to locate me, peering down at me like a fly crawling around at the bottom of a garbage can. That’s the image of my one Little League appearance that stays with me to this day: the pitcher squinting down as if he’s looking over the rim of a garbage can try to locate this little pip squeak he has to pitch to.
He blew me away on four pitches. I took a strike. Then a ball. Then a swinging strike. And then another swinging strike, and I was gone. I think the ordeal might have lasted a minute. But the memory will last a lifetime.