Free writing workshop for aspiring authors of young adult and middle grade fiction. The first five pages may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, so get them right with the help of three authors over the course of three weeks. During the third week, an agent will also critique your pages and your pitch and pick a workshop winner - the prize is a partial request!
Name: Richard Gnann Genre: Young Adult Title: Your Best Pitch
Ed Reese propeller-ed his bat around twice. Same old Ed. Same old hotdog act.
Ed leaned over the plate and flexed his muscles. We were in the bottom of the seventh of a seven-inning game. A base runner stood on first carrying the tying run and Ed was hunting glory. If he hit one out of the park, he wins the game for the Astros.
I was pitching for the Alpharetta Mets in the Northside Rec Championship game and I had two strikes on Ed. “Go with your best pitch.” That’s what my dad had always said. It’s what my dad would say now, if he were here.
“Reach back Jimbo.” Tony Sparrow was my catcher and I was his pitcher, but we were more than just battery mates. Mom called us Batman and Robin, and Tony jerked my mind back into focus.
“Gotcha on radar, Jimbo.” Tony always said he was ground control guiding in a fighter jet, and he gave me the same target I had been throwing to since we were nine years old.
My fastball sizzled and I watched it carve a slice off the back corner of the plate. “Strrrrrrrrrrike three. You’re out!”
Reese slammed his bat into the ground and his red hair shook. He dragged the bat behind him and stared at the umpire, then turned away and spit on the ground toward me.
“That’s’ ok Ed, another bad call.” Ed’s dad always pulled one of those old-man lawn chairs up close to the screen near home plate and slurped boiled peanuts the whole game. “You would’ve smoked anything close.”
I knew his last words were for me. I had handled Ed all year, and the back of my neck got hot.
“Get the next batter!” My mom had on her lucky Mets cap and her lucky big round red sunglasses. She clapped her hands in front of her chin twice. It was her lucky clap. “Come on, Jimbo, next pitch!”
Even from the bleachers, Mom could see right through me. No one wants a mind reading mom, but she did set me back on track. I needed one more out for the Championship. Forget everything but the next pitch.
Tony pounded his catcher’s mitt. “Finish, Jimbo.”
I just blew the doors off the best batter in the whole league. All I had to do now was get Billy Pepper out. Billy was a Punch - and - Judy - hitting thirteen-year old. I would get the out, my Mets would be Northside Champs, and I would start travel ball next week with the best team in the state.
I could see Coach Perno in the afternoon shadow raise his index finger and wag it at Tony. “One.”
I stepped off the rubber.
“Time.” Tony was beside me on the mound before I could wipe my forehead. “Coach Perno said throw your fastball three times.”
I just stared at the baseball, studying it like it could tell my fortune.
“What are we crazy thinking about? Coach always let’s you call your own game, but he’s right.”
Tony was almost my best friend ever, but I would decide what pitch to throw. I wanted to cross up Billy with a curve ball.
Tony slapped his mitt. “You sure?”
The doubt in Tony’s face was honest, but my mind was set. “I’m sure.”
“Ok Jimbo, I’m in. Let’s crazy do it.”
Tony jogged back behind the plate and set the target. My curveball dove from the letters to the knees, but snapped inside for ball one. Billy’s eyes were big as hubcaps. His bat didn’t flinch.
I kicked the dirt and the red dust cloud floated on the late afternoon breeze toward right field. I was now behind in the count and for no good reason. You don’t get points for fooling the batter. The idea is to get outs.
I came back with a fastball and Billy took again. “Strrrrrike one.”
Tony fired the ball back. “Just like that!”
Tony’s message came in loud and clear, but my mind drifted. Billy was young, but he had seen my pitches before. Time for a changeup.
The pitch stayed high. I saw Billy close his eyes, but he lucked into a dribbler foul up the first baseline.
The Astro dugout exploded like Billy had powered a single to center.
“You can hit him.”
The pine trees leaned over the third baseline fence and the American Legion field scoreboard lights shined bright in their shade.
Mets 3 Astros 2
strikes 2 outs 2
Screams from parents and friends caused my neck to tingle. My heart was racing the last hundred yards of a marathon heading for a photo finish.
Billy tapped the plate once with his bat and loosened his shoulders with a practice swing. Everyone could see that Billy now believed he could win this game. I shoved the thought away. Everyone knew Billy had about a one in a thousand chance of catching up to my fastball. Everyone but Billy, and his coolness became a trickle of doubt rolling down to my fingers causing me to grip the ball too tight. I didn’t hear the usual sizzle. Instead of carving off the corner, my fastball split the plate down the middle.
Billy’s eyes were open now and he swung as hard as he could. It was just hard enough to pop a puny fly into right field. The ball was going to come down for an easy out and I started jumping up and down.
Then I stopped.
Because the road passed close to the ball field, the right field fence angled sharply back toward the infield the last two feet of fair territory. That made the foul pole T-ball distance and the pounding in my ears drowned out the screams of the crowd when Billy’s puny fly turned into cruise missile rocketing fair toward the fence.
A thousand to one chance to touch my fastball and a thousand to one chance to land fair over the fence. That’s a million to one chance that came home for Billy Pepper when the ball bounced fair off the high chain link beyond first base and tapped the hood of a passing convertible.
From the mound, I had a perfect spot to watch the Astros push Billy to the ground and pile on top. I turned away, only to see my own teammates trudge off the field after losing the Championship because of my stupidity. They didn’t even stop in the dugout before shuffling to their speechless parents.
“Tough one, Jimbo.” I hadn’t seen Coach Perno walk out to the mound. “Let’s go, ok?”
He turned to lead me across the grass of the infield.
Then he stopped and turned back. “You’re one heck of a pitcher. And I know your dad would have been proud of you.”
Maybe, but I had never been brainless picking pitches when my dad was here. I never had any doubts when Dad was here.
Coach Perno wanted to say the right thing, but his last words carved a hole in my chest. “We would have all given anything to have your dad here.”
My dad would never be here. Exactly one year ago, we buried my dad.