Monday, January 05, 2009

The Streak - 13

Evan hardly thought about nothing. The PA played his at-bat music, "Waiting for the Bus" by ZZ top. He walked up to the plate and located the ghost of the batter's box, its chalk half-vanished in the dust, and planted his right foot just inside the lower right-hand corner.

Have mercy

He wriggled his foot a little until he could feel the dirt resist his spikes.

Been waitin' for the bus all day

He lifted his left foot and tapped his instep with the tip of his bat one time.

Have mercy

He dropped his foot and let it rest lightly at a slight angle to the plate, making him a little pigeon-toed.

Been waitin' for the bus all day

In his left hand, he held the bat straight out from his waist so that the barrel appeared to bisect the plate. He didn't like to touch the plate with the bat. He didn't think it right to do that, not if he were to hope to ever touch it with his foot.

I got my brown paper bag and my take-home pay

He felt his helmet, tacky with pine tar. Not to adjust it so much as to situate it, to know where his head was relative to his arms, his neck, his body. He brought the bat up over his right shoulder and gripped the handle in his fists. He imagined that his body's core - hips, ass, abdomen - was not propped up by his legs but bobbing on them, as in a sling. It felt good to be sprung upon his legs this way, to know where his body was and where the power rested in it. He let the bat waver a little and held it rather loosely. His grip was low on the handle for maximum leverage. His left shoulder and elbow quivered, too, giving his upper body and the tool he wielded - or was it a weapon? - an air of volatility, of huge potential fury. This was Evan's fifth stance in his seven years in the bigs, and he'd arrived at it only a week or so ago after arduous analysis, discussion, diagramming, visualization and practice with the Yanks' batting coach, Joe Rettenmeyer.

Evan glanced down the line at third base coach Andy Turner. No bunt, no hit-and-run. The pitcher he faced was known to throw fastballs on his first pitch, sometimes sliders. I won't swing, I won't swing, maybe I'll swing, I won't swing, thought Evan. Maybe I'll swing. The pitcher wound up and Evan tried to clear his mind. I won't swing. The ball appeared momentarily out of the pitcher's hand and shot into the catcher's mitt with a hiss and a pop.

"Strike one!" hollered the ump.

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