We had a little baseball magic happen yesterday.
We were leading the game comfortably when our head coach decided to give two little used players at-bats. CJ, a senior, had seen no prior game action this season, and I am not entirely sure he had ever played baseball before this season. CJ, however, is the kind of kid you need on your team, the guy willing to do anything to help out, the guy who works just as hard as everyone else despite no promise of playing time. Before yesterday, his game day duties consisted of the electronic scorekeeping of our games.
He came up to the plate yesterday with two outs and runners on second and first. He got into the box and stood at the ready position – even though the catcher was fixing his gear and the pitcher was not on the rubber. I was smiling broadly in the third base box. He took the first pitch for a ball. I took a few steps forward to give my usual instructions which include, but are not limited to “stay back,” “trust your hands,” “let the ball travel,” and of course, “keep your head there.” Only CJ didn’t step out of the box.
My mouth hung open and I closed it when I realized he wasn’t going to step out. A few of his teammates reminded him to do so from the dugout. He stepped out, turned toward me and had a huge smile on his face. “You got this,” was all I could get out. I was on the verge of laughing. He took one more ball, then fouled off the following pitch. He did step out between those.
Then he got a high fastball and dropped it into right field for a hit. The runner on second scored to notch an RBI. Our dugout went nuts. When Trevor, the runner who advanced to third on the hit looked at me, he had a broad grin. A pitch later, I said to him, “I know he’s not going to, but I really wish the pitcher would pick to first, just so CJ has to get dirty.” We were already up 9 at that point. Then, inexplicably, the pitcher picked CJ at first. CJ dove back safely. Our dugout erupted again. “Ho, now you gotta wash ’em!” somebody shouted.
There have been highs lows this season, but this is something else entirely. CJ was replaced in the outfield the following half-inning and all of the coaches – myself included – made jokes to CJ like “Okay, get back on the book!” and “Right back in that cage, monster!” Watching all of his teammates spill out of the dugout to congratulate him is the kind of amazing scene that you see in movies, or visualize but never get too carried away with because it seems completely unrealistic. But it happened. Thanks, CJ, for a little slice of perfection.